Social Distanced Production

How is Carmel putting on a play during COVID?


Victoria Renguso

Mustardseed the Fairy braids Peasblossom’s hair

The bright lights shine on the actors onstage as the curtain opens and the show begins. The audience is brought into another time period, with costumes, props and sets tricking their brains into thinking they’re actually there. Backstage, actors mingle about–some getting ready for their next cue, others laughing as they play a game like Scattergories. Friendships are formed as actors prepare to go on stage, many that last for the rest of high school.

But this year, the Coronavirus is changing all that; yet, Carmel is still planning to put on a show. Here’s what Carmel theater is doing to adapt to COVID-19.

This year, Carmel’s fall play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, will be filmed during a two week tech week and produced online for others to see. According to Kyle Baker, the director of the theater department at Carmel, there is a chance there might be a small live audience in the auditorium, but it will be invite-only in order to limit crowds.

As for masks and social distancing, Baker mentions that she doesn’t yet know whether the actors will perform with masks on at the final show, but that “once upon a time actors wore masks and had to emote physically, so if we have to wear masks, we will embrace it and use our other acting tools to put on the show.” She believes that with gestures and body movement, as long as the audience can hear the actors, the masks would not be a problem.

Gold cohort’s Socially distanced rehearsal masked (Sarah Wiseman)

However, Carmel’s cohort system still proves a problem, especially with the leads being split between cohorts. Baker wants to keep the rehearsals in cohorts as long as possible, with those in school that day attending rehearsal in person, and those at home attending on Zoom. She mentioned that the combination of in-person and remote may seem tricky, but it actually works. One rehearsal had two of the leads Titiana (played by Junior Nora Junge) and Oberon (played by Senior Angel Tejada) learning the movement on stage, while Puck (played by Junior Meredith Modelski), the third lead in this scene, read her lines from home. Despite not all being together, Baker said the scene still went really well, and she felt that it was a productive rehearsal.

For anyone thinking about viewing the show, whether in person or online, Baker urges them to come. “It’s not as complex as you think it is, just because it’s Shakespeare,” Baker said. She knows that the actors will make the show interesting with their movements and gestures, and she believes that with the actors’ practice, the audience will be able to understand all the dialogue, despite the language.

“We only have today to work with right now, so stay flexible,” Baker said. Everything this year is looking different, and it is not for sure that Carmel will get to put on a play in November. However, the important thing in theater is the process; so, even while rehearsals are happening, Carmel’s theater is growing and succeeding.

Puck talks with Fairies during Gold Cohort rehearsal (Victoria Renguso)

The following is an interview with Ms. Kyle Baker, the director.

Sarah Wiseman (SW): How will the play be recorded/sent out?
Kyle Baker (KB): Very flexible fluid process. Taking it week-by-week and day-by-day. There are two weeks set up for tech this year because of all of the unknowns. We have a large auditorium and might be able to pull off a small audience. We will take two weeks of tech rehearsals at the end to film our play in case we need to produce work online for parents/grandparents.

SW: How will we be adhering to social distancing/mask wearing on stage?
KB: Haven’t decided whether we will wear masks or not wear masks and stay far away from each other. I don’t mind masks while watching the show because the language and body movement is more important. Still fluid though. My thoughts on clear masks: Once upon a time actors wore masks and had to emote physically; so if we have to wear masks, we will embrace and use our other tools to put on the show.

SW: How will rehearsals look different, especially since the cast is split into cohorts?
KB: I want to continue in cohorts for as long as possible, so we are actually able to put on the play. There is a combination of live, in-person and people watching/saying their lines on zoom. Cohort rehearsal is actually working. Work can still be done remotely.

SW: Do you feel we will have enough time to put this show together due to the inability to meet together as a whole cast for a while?
KB: I do. I come from a professional background where we put shows together in two weeks. It will energize the production more. Students are capable but we need to focus on getting it memorized. Blocking and other stuff is easier to put together.

SW: What advice do you have for students in cast or crew trying to cope with the unknown circumstances regarding this fall show?
KB: Stay flexible, focus on the craft of it and the work we have to do today, whether it’s rehearsal or running lines with someone. It’s not about the end process, it’s about the journey. We only have today to work with right now, so stay flexible. We don’t know if we will actually get to the end, but we will work on it, and that’s very important.

SW: Is there any information you would like to share with prospective viewers?
KB: If by chance we are able to have a live audience, it will be invite only just so we can control the crowds. If it is not in person, it’s not as complex as you’d think it is just because it’s Shakespeare. Don’t be afraid to watch just because it’s Shakespeare.

SW: Is there anything else you would like to add?
KB:My belief is that theater is important for our society and maintaining connection to each other, but we’re being asked to do a lot of observation as to how humans are adjusting.