As students at The University of Tampa return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester, various programs are figuring out how to operate under COVID-19 regulations. This semester, the theatre department is experiencing massive changes when it comes to how shows are run.
“For the school, I think we’re required to do two shows a semester, so it looks different this year,” said Julia Mason, senior musical theatre major. “Specifically in how we’re running the shows, we’re not doing traditional musicals we’re doing more cabaret styled pieces where everyone can be socially distanced and not interact with each other.”
UT’s theatre department is slated to have three productions this fall: a virtual radio play of Alice in Wonderland, an in-person performance of variety show Vaudeville Today, and another in-person performance of Sondheim on Sondheim, a musical revue.
“It’s a very diverse sort of theater production schedule but it is allowing us to enable our students to perform,” said Michael Staczar, assistant dean of the college of arts and letters, and chair and associate professor of speech, theatre and dance. “And [it allows] us as audience members to participate in the production either in person or virtually dependent on the show.”
Staczar said that for the shows that will be in-person this semester, only UT students, faculty and staff are allowed in the audience, to lower the risk of outside community members potentially infecting the space.
“For the radio play and the vaudeville play we just submitted video auditions,” said Ashley Clark, senior theatre major. “Like for the radio play you would just record yourself performing a piece of literature or something. But with vaudeville we would come up with our own ideas and pitches for that and submit them over video.”
“Students involved in Vaudeville Today are in charge of directing and coming up with their own skits, going to director Bob Gonzalez for feedback along the way,” said Clark. All rehearsals for the show are set to be done virtually until one to two weeks before opening night, Thursday, Nov. 8 at Falk Theatre.
“It is definitely a lot more different than it usually is, but I mean we’re still doing theatre, it’s still going on, which a lot of people in general in the world, a lot of theatre is stopping because of corona which sucks,” said Mason.
The theatre department has implemented several protocols for their upcoming productions. “There are no costumes, the students will have to use and supply their own clothing for the shows and the dressing rooms are prohibited from use due to their lack of space,” said Staczar. The department has also had to opt for low tech productions to meet the minimum amount of people to work on the shows safely.
“We’re always just sort of two or three steps ahead, knowing this is how we have to do it to move forward,” said Staczar. “And I think everybody so far has been really comfortable with how the process is moving forward.”
According to Clark, the biggest adjustment for students in the theatre department, outside of the way productions are run, is the lack of interaction between people. Typically, the theatre is very heavy in physical performances and it is a very weird time for people who are involved, said Clark.
“It is definitely terrifying in the sense that I kind of don’t have a career when I graduate,” said Mason, “I don’t know what it is going to look like in 2021, my fear is that in terms of summer stock, which is summer theatres that usually people in college or graduates do. I’m worried that they’re going to hire the ensemble that auditioned last year and was supposed to do it last year.”