Social distancing guidelines and regulations have closed theatres all across the country for the foreseeable future. That means no more Broadway shows and no more community productions until COVID-19 is long gone. Eastern’s own theatre department, however, is still going strong in the midst
of this pandemic. Regulations have been put in place to keep rehearsals and performances safe and to prevent the spread of illness as much as possible.
Recently, Eastern began offering the long-awaited Theatre major and minor for students, including a wide range of new theatre classes put together by the new Head of the Theatre Department, Lois Abdelmalek. This decision was made before the pandemic, and the news was very well received among performers and aspiring actors, directors, and crew members. Now, the department has to navigate new protocol for what classes, rehearsals, and performances can and should look like, putting the safety of students first and foremost.
“Professor Abdelmalek and a lot of the other higher-ups are trying to make it safe, but still a fun experience, so it definitely is still fun and enjoyable, but it definitely is weird because it’s nothing like anyone has ever experienced before,” said Abigail Pardocchi, a senior Theatre major.
Students are required to social distance and sing and dance while wearing masks to ensure that everyone stays safe, which can be hard for theatre productions. Much of the emotions and message of the plays and musicals are shown through facial expressions and the way characters interact with each other through physical distance.
This year, in lieu of a play or musical like Into the Woods and Little Women, the theatre department is
putting together a collection of performances called “Let Our Voices Rise: A Crescendo of Resilience” and will feature a collection of songs and numbers surrounding the themes of resilience and hope.
Instead of in-person auditions, students sent in videos of themselves singing parts of a song or performing monologues, receiving an email if they were selected to be a part of this production. Since this won’t have a set script, the early rehearsals focused on figuring out what songs were going to be performed and what voice part everyone should sing. “It’s a lot of up in the air right now because we’re not entirely sure what we can do with COVID precautions,” said Pardocchi, who will be taking part in the production as well as being the stage manager.
There are decisions that have to be made about the content of the show down to whether or not performers should wear masks while singing, since not wearing masks allows for more expression and clarity in singing, but requires 16 feet of distance between each student for safety purposes.
The show will feature dance numbers as well, which present their own challenges when it comes to
social distancing. “Especially when dancing with other people, you want to do partner work, but you can’t do partner work because of everything,” said Pardocchi.
All of the performances will be recorded ahead of time and edited together to form the final production, so the cast has the ability to use different outdoor locations instead of just the auditorium, allowing them more space to move during dance numbers and allowing for more people to be in a space at once. This also means that the performance will be completely virtual. A link will be sent out for 7:30pm on Nov. 21 for all students and faculty who would like to watch the show and support the theatre department’s dedication and hard work during a time that seems very opposed to group activities like theatre.