Theatre Department Forced To Innovate With COVID-19 Crisis

(Graphic by Riley Andersen)

Utah Valley University’s Department of Theatrical Arts is finding new ways to be innovative with different teaching modes and streaming performance services to adhere to health guidelines amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After switching to remote learning in the spring, the faculty and students have spent time reinventing their performance art to make it more accessible. 

“The spring was really tricky. A lot of things that were easy to do became difficult and all of the shows were canceled,” said Hallie Purser, a senior acting major. “The initial feeling was a lack of energy between characters. There is only so much connection you can have, and there is a disconnect of being in a different space. But we discovered — out of necessity — a new way to do theatre that makes it more available.”

The department is offering livestream videos, completely remote courses, and face-to-face classes with limited sizes, department Chairman John Newman said. Classes that are in person have small class sizes, temperature checks, social distancing and cleaning procedures. 

Despite all of the challenges, the department has discovered a new venue for performance art that reaches more people, and they have spent more time focusing on the screen side of theatre. 

 “We’ve been creative. The situation requires us to be creative and find new situations. One of the things is that geography no longer matters. We’ve been able to connect with artists anywhere in the country,” Newman said. 

“They are learning how to — not just student direct — but becoming familiar with how to film and edit and make it something people want to be involved with. That has really impressed me. That wasn’t the plan and they pivoted and I can’t wait to see what they offer,” associate professor of theatre Lisa Hall said.  

The theatre department will be streaming their performances online this fall. “She Kill Monsters” will be streaming Oct. 1-3 and they are presenting “Stories In An Isolated Age” Oct. 8-10. Ticket holders will receive a link for the stream event.

“I would love for people to see how hard our students and faculty have worked to create something that is safe for them to access and enjoy,” Hall said. “I would love for the student body to see how hard our students work even in the face of something that is really impacting their type of study.”

More information about live-streamed performances can be found at The Noorda Center website.

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