For many in the community, a night of music, comedy, and drama is the highlight of the season in art. On opening night, the annual fall play never fails to draw an eager crowd that relays its delight to friends on the following day, bringing a new wave of spectators to each performance. However, as with other large gatherings, the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated this aspect of fall production. The theater department and student actors are striving to keep the spirit of the event alive despite the health safety limitations.
With the school having provided clearance for only one actor on stage at a time, this year’s fall production will feature recorded monologues. Nevertheless, the leading Sixth Form actors, including Drew Loughnane, Trevor Pettibone, and Liam Harkins, have creative ideas for maintaining the excitement of a play.
“We’re transitioning into a sort of a model where we’re not necessarily going to have scenes or acting between people.”DRew Loughnane ’21
“We’re transitioning into a sort of a model where we’re not necessarily going to have scenes or acting between people. We’re going to try to do something with a green screen, or we’re going to try to go outside and film some stuff that way, but it’s going to be a lot more recorded stuff, and we’re not going to have an audience,” Sixth Form actor Drew Loughnane said.
Performing Arts Department Chair and director of productions Mr. Darren Hengst plans to string the individual segments together and hold a viewing event with a virtual streaming hub serving as the theater hall.
“[A physical audience] is not possible, like, I can’t even have more than one boy, without a mask, right now and Centennial and I mean, that [an audience] just wouldn’t be a responsible thing to do,” Mr. Hengst said. “This summer, we had success with the streaming event for Carousel, so we’re going to do it similarly to that. It’ll pretty much be like a watch party. Everybody gets a link, and then it goes off at eight o’clock or whatever.”
Currently, Mr. Hengst has eighteen students signed up to perform, and he is in the process of working with students to select monologues.
“I was thinking about a theme in the beginning, but it’s difficult to do that with the number of boys.” Mr. Hengst said, “My job in any production is that I look at the boys that are participating and I find the strength of those of that group. I, rather than try to fit all that [the monologues] into some type of theme, I’d rather highlight the talent of the boys as best I can.”
Some students’ monologues, however, will be more intertwined. For example, Loughnane, Pettibone, and Harkins will each be recording speeches from the play True West.
“[The monologues will be similar to how] you watch a YouTube . It is a three-person scene typically, but because of COVID, that’s not really possible right now. So, we’re going to film them [the monologues] separately, then clip it [the scene] together,” Pettibone said.
Others are still in the process of being assigned their performance piece. In contrast to the timeline of the production in previous years, rehearsals have not yet begun.
“As of now, I don’t think any practices have happened yet,” Fourth Form actor Colin Kelly said.
Rehearsals as a whole will be different for this pandemic-era production: students will work one-on-one with Mr. Hengst. Actors such as Kelly are saddened by the inability to engage with other crew members.
“Last year, and every time I’ve done a theatre production at Haverford, one of, if not, my favorite parts of being in it is just the energy of the cast and crew and just being backstage,” Kelly said. “This year, it’s, of course, there’s not going to be any ‘backstage’ because normally we’d all be like huddled, either in the dressing rooms or in the wings. It’s gonna be different.”
“It really helped me grow mature as a person and overcome my stage frights and the nerves everybody gets before they go on [stage]. And now I just kind of like the crowd.”Trevor Pettibone ’21
The absence of a physical audience also strikes as a major loss for the actors.
“I would have loved to be able to put on a show and have all my friends there in the audience sitting next to each other, and clapping and being together,” Loughnane said.
For Pettibone, breaking out into the spotlight before audiences in last year’s fall production, Three Musketeers, even helped him conquer his fear of performing in front of a crowd.
“It really helped me grow mature as a person and overcome my stage fright and the nerves everybody gets before they go on [stage]. And now I just kind of like the crowd,” Pettibone said.
The Sixth Form actors for whom this production will be their last fall play expressed regret but also deep gratitude for having the opportunity to perform in some way. Loughnane compared their situation this year with that of the graduated actors from the Class of 2020 in describing a cherished moment from last spring’s Carousel.
“One of my favorite moments of really the whole year is that last day before we all left [in spring] when we were able to put on Carousel on that Thursday night—just seeing how the seniors were affected by it, and how the whole school really rallied around all of the hard work that everyone had been doing. To have one show and have a night like that was really something special,” Loughnane said.
“I think it’s similar this year, in the way that my class and my group of seniors were obviously disappointed that we can’t have a full show,” Loughnane said, “but to be able to have something as seniors and just have a way to go out, I think it is definitely significant that they’re able to get something done.”