CUC Works To Keep Theater Alive Despite COVID-19

by Brielle Conwell

River Forest, IL- Covid-19 has had an effect on almost every aspect of people’s daily lives, whether it be their jobs, attending school, or going grocery shopping. But, how has the Corona Virus and social distancing affected live theater? I interviewed two members of Concordia University Chicago’s The Collective about their upcoming virtual production of Singular/Plural to see how CUC’s theater program is functioning despite the restrictions that Covid-19 requires. 

The first person I interviewed is Nina Williams, a sophomore and communications major at CUC. Her responses are as follows:

Give me a rundown of Singular/Plural…what is the show all about?

Singular/Plural is a wonderful yet strange collusion of pieces put together in a short film that expresses the acting life during Covid-19. It shows the hardships and the beauty of what it looks like to be “together” during a pandemic.

What is your role in the production?

I am part of the ensemble in this production. We don’t have any lead roles or supporting roles. We’re one unit in this group!

How is The Collective adapting to restrictions set in place due to covid?

The Collective is adapting quite well to the restrictions of covid. I think this piece signifies how CUC is trying to stay strong during these harsh times which is one of the many reasons why I decided to join this production. Even in hard times, we’re still going strong.

What is virtual rehearsal like? Do you like it? 

Virtual rehearsal is quite odd. We spend a lot of time on Zoom calls rehearsing scenes from our bedrooms. You feel together yet you also feel like you’re missing something. Nothing will compare to actually being on stage rehearsing lines with your castmates. This is a nice alternative, but I will always miss the stage.

Finally, what do you hope to gain out of this production and staying involved in theater amidst a pandemic?

I want to say that I’ve learned something about acting during this production, but I think in all actuality, I learned more about coping during the times of a pandemic. Acting may never be the same and that’s really hard to hear. As much as I liked this production, I want to keep acting in front of a crowd. I learned how to make a production for a crowd of people without actually being there, which is awesome, but my love for theater may never truly be satisfied if I can’t actually do it. Theater may continue to live on through Zoom calls, but I want to continue praying for the day that I will soon be able to live my dream of being back on the stage.

The second person I interviewed was Gavin Young, a sophomore and theater major at Concordia University Chicago. His responses are as follows:

Give me a rundown of Singular/Plural…what is the show all about?

This show is an actors’ way of creating art while being apart. We are taking ideas like loneliness, motivation, and several other ideas and are creating stories. We are creating some fun short skits that will bring people joy and a sense of togetherness in these uncertain times. As a group of actors that are now spread around the world, we are just trying to bring a light among the darkness that 2020 has brought to us. 

What is your role in the production?

I am a part of the ensemble. This is an ensemble piece. We do not have a lead or supporting roles. We are just an ensemble holding each other up. We are creating art together and pushing each other to express ourselves in ways we have not done before this pandemic. It is a very eye-opening project we are creating. 

How is The Collective adapting to restrictions set in place due to covid?

The Collective is adapting very well. We are producing a film, and Singular/Plural right now. We have created a community that we do not feel like we are away all the time. Many of us stay in touch daily and The Collective has helped with that through these fun productions!

What is virtual rehearsal like? Do you like it? 

It is honestly super interesting. So we all get on zoom in our own homes and dorms. Stephanie Stroud, our director, goes over what we want to do but asks us if we have input for these scenarios and fun little exercises. We have all collaborated on the few skits that we have done. This is a group effort, and I love this aspect. I like the online rehearsals because we have so much confidence to be vulnerable and to show aspects of ourselves that we did not know we have. Online rehearsals of course have their downfalls with us not physically with each other, but online rehearsal holds a sense that I can say or do something and not feel awkward because we are all just trying to create amazing work. We may fail, but it does not affect us. We learn from our mistakes and push forward. We create more intricate pieces too. We have the online capability to keep a space clear of doubt and cleared of fear. 

Finally, what do you hope to gain out of this production and staying involved in theater amidst a pandemic?

I hope to gain more creativity, and the ability to be truly vulnerable. I want to learn to overcome all the odds against me. All of the theatre and performance-based jobs have been closed in America since March, and I want to be an actor that was able to overcome these odds. There are so many people who told me to change my major, but I am going to be able to get through those odds by doing productions like this until we can find our new ‘normal’. 

CUC’s The Collective is going above and beyond to keep theater alive and make sure CUC students are involved in productions despite the pandemic. If you are interested in seeing The Collective’s performance of Singular/Plural it will be streamed on CUC’s Department of Theater Youtube and Facebook pages on November 13th & 14th at 7:30PM.