Spring is in the air and the excitement is growing for our upcoming Spring Rep productions Songs of a New World and The Tempest! This semester has been hectic for students, especially seniors. However, theatre has the power to reignite! Theatre is not dead—it’s just intermission.
Sophomore BFA Musical Theatre major Sarah Kay (Navigator, Songs for a New World), sophomore BA Theatre major and Education minor Ariana Long (Alonsa, The Tempest), and sophomore BA Theatre major Justin Williams (Stephano, The Tempest) share their experience with the rehearsal process and what they hope the audience takes away from each show.
Tell us about the role you are playing!
Sarah: I am Woman 2 in Songs For A New World. She’s the realist of the group of navigators, so she always tells you like it is.
Ariana: I am working on The Tempest! I love bringing Alonsa, the Queen of Naples, to life! She’s very regal and a little sassy. Overall, though, she truly has a big heart, and she loves her son and her country.
Justin: I am currently working on Shakespeare’s The Tempest! My character, Stephano, is a drunken clown who wanders the island after being washed ashore after a devastating storm. With nothing but a bottle of wine and sea shanties to keep him company, he discovers a fish-creature named Caliban. He is reunited with his best friend, Trinculo, who is the Queen of Naples’ jester. Stephano is the king of the misfits! Now with this trio of drunkards on the island, chaos ensues.
Is the rehearsal process different than it was pre-COVID?
Sarah: This is my first show at GTA that hasn’t been shut down by COVID, so my knowledge of the rehearsal process is somewhat skewed, but I see my directors working so hard to jump through the hoops of COVID guidelines for the sake of a good show.
Ariana: I’ve never actually performed in a GTA show pre-covid, but from my experience as the child wrangler for The Bra and Panty Club in February 2020, it seems very similar. Of course, we are wearing masks and social distancing, but other than that, rehearsal for this show feels like every other show! Even with social distancing, the bond between our cast is very strong.
Justin: As an actor, you have to be resilient and flexible. This rehearsal process has tested me on both of those attributes! We started rehearsal in mid-February, so COVID guidelines were still very strict. Blocking, for example, started off very far apart. As new guidelines came out and more people became vaccinated, we adjusted accordingly. Along with three-quarter character masks, the costume department has created custom protection shields to cover the other quarter of our faces! It is very challenging, but the cast and crew of The Tempest prioritize safety… and then clown bits. But mostly safety!
Do you feel less stressed about the performance knowing there won’t be a live audience?
Sarah: I feel very safe knowing there won’t be a live audience. Even though I miss live theatre dearly, the health of performers and patrons should always be at the forefront.
Ariana: No! if anything, I feel more stressed. One of my favorite things about theatre is forming a connection with the live audience. I’m still confident that the show is going to be great though, with or without a live audience!
Justin: Au contraire! I am actually more stressed about the performance. Shakespeare’s work thrives on audience interaction and delivering asides to the crowd. Instead of a group of family and friends, we will be performing to five cameras! Usually theatre is done and then it disappears forever, so it is pretty rewarding to know our performance will be captured forever. However, it is somewhat strange to be delivering jokes to deafening silence with or without an audience.
The coronavirus has changed our world and daily lives. How has it affected you as a performer, and do you think these are long-term changes?
Sarah: COVID has made it so much more difficult to be a performer, with less in-person classes, less workshops and projects available, and less public spaces to practice songs and monologues. I am excited to be vaccinated and back to a somewhat normal life of rehearsing in public spaces and attending shows.
Ariana: Covid has definitely made me a lot more conscious of my movements as a performer. Before, I used to rely solely on my facial expressions to convey emotion, but now, since I’m used to having most of my face covered up with a mask, I’m much more aware of my body language.
Justin: During the first quarantine, I had the epiphany that for my mental well-being, I just need to stay busy and creative. Virtual productions, drawing and painting, and writing kept me from pulling hair out last year. I learned that I should not stress about things out of my control. As a performer, this translates so well! I am happy to report that even after returning to the stage, I have remained busy and creative in my free time. Everyday, I am more thankful to be able to perform in person. The Tempest is just a first step into normality, which I think will eventually come back in some form.
Who or what keeps you motivated?
Sarah: In all honesty, this show has kept me motivated. There was a time when I thought about switching majors because the future of theatre just seemed so doomed, but this show has reignited the fire within me.
Ariana: My family and my Delta Delta Delta sisters keep me motivated. I’m so lucky to have such an amazing support system!
Justin: The cast and crew keep me motivated! End of story. I am constantly inspired by this amazing group of talented, funny, kind, generous people. Zechariah Pierce (Director) and Joshua Daugherty (Assistant Director) have created a lively, innovative energy on set. My favorite part of my day is getting to meet up with Darcy Barnfield-Jones (Trinculo) and Michael Dotson (Caliban) and just explore the space and create comedic moments. I am blessed to be associated with this group in any capacity.
What do you love about the show?
Sarah: I love that this show is being directed in a way that allows for so many people to be a part of the process. Having navigators and explorers is such a brilliant idea that fosters growth in so many actors.
Ariana: I love working with this insanely talented cast. We all work together as a group so well. I also love working with Shakespearean language!
Justin: The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. On stage, I feel like a Rolling Stone playing one of the hits. It is exhilarating to think about how many generations of performers have done this show. Our version of The Tempest can only exist right now with this very specific group of people. That is something that keeps me crawling back to theatre in general.
What do you hope the audience takes away from these shows?
Sarah: My biggest hope is that audiences take away the idea that theatre isn’t dead because of the pandemic, and taking chances and entering the breech is all that is necessary to grow.
Ariana: I hope the audience is inspired by the fact that love and kindness persevere throughout these stories. At the end of the day, connection reminds us of our humanity and COVID has definitely reminded me of that. I hope the audience feels that connection as well.
Justin: At the end of the day, The Tempest is about disillusioning ourselves and bringing communities back together. I would hope that our show keeps people proactive in searching for truth in an era of so much false information. During the pandemic, it can feel like you have been stuck on an island with a small group of people. COVID has divided us in so many different directions, but we all have our close family and friends. For me, this is the cast and crew of The Tempest. I hope the audience leaves the show feeling thankful for their strange band of castaways.
“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what is to be a human being”
– Oscar Wilde