Pandemic transforms theater

Elijah Hickman | Banner | The cast for "Love's Labour's Lost" performs during a dress rehearsal while maintaining the face shield mandate.

The lights are down, and rows of seats remain empty as Broadway and theaters across the globe remain closed. Audiences are left with only the entertainment on their screens at home while performers struggle to make ends meet.

For the last year, live performances have been a thing of the past. Live theater was one of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other entertainment favorites.

As Broadway closed, many hoped it would be a quick shutdown. No one expected to be without live theater for more than a year now. While many shows and actors had their runs cut short, their hope to return dwindles day by day.

Many popular shows were forced to close permanently in the middle of the pandemic, leaving actors without jobs and fans without hope. “Mean Girls,” “Beetlejuice,” “Frozen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” were some of the shows that had to be shut down.

While some not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, some took this time to explore new theatrical adventures. One being the first-ever Tik Tok musical rendition of the popular Pixar film “Ratatouille.”

The show was born on the social media platform Tik Tok. Fans of the movie penned original music for the film in hopes of a laugh and like. After a cult following, the show was born. “Ratatouille, The Tik Tok Musical,” premiered on the platform with performances by Adam Lambert and Titus Burgess.

While significant effects have been put on Broadway, smaller theater organizations have struggled just as much. California Baptist’s theater program has also met its challenges from the pandemic.

Frank Mihelich, associate professor of theater, spoke on how the department has risen above amidst the challenges.

“All of our classes are online, which has created wonderful opportunities to get creative in our teaching. We have produced two full streaming theatre productions this year, which is more than many other universities.” Mihelich said.

CBU has taken steps to ensure a top-notch program and experience for their students has proven to pay off. Students are grateful for the program and their work to make a safe space to explore their craft.

Scott Rydelski, senior theater major, shared his thoughts on the new adjustments.

“Most of our classes have switched to an online format,” Rydelski said. “However, the staff has been able to figure out brilliant solutions so that certain performance-based classes are as engaging and beneficial as before COVID. We are also able to do shows within social distancing and mask guidelines. This is the best thing that we have been able to do still as many schools don’t have the same opportunity to perform as we do.”

Jolene Automo, junior theater major, said she is grateful to the program during this time.

“This semester, we are currently in rehearsals for ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ and are filming that show as well,” Automo said. “Even though we have to rehearse socially distant with masks and aren’t able to perform in front of a live audience, it has still been such a blessing to be doing theater and showcase art during these unprecedented times.”

Looking ahead, the future of theater seems to remain strong. Theatres have been gearing up for the return of performances for the summer and fall of 2021.

Mihelich was optimistic about the future of theatre.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything is that human beings need to be around other people,” Mihelich said. “Theater is an in-person experience, and I am looking forward to the revival of theater in America post-pandemic as people catch a vision for experiencing events in the company of others.”

Although the world of entertainment on-screen has grown immensely, the future of live theaters looks bright. There is hope still for audiences and actors everywhere as vaccinations roll out and our country begins to return to some normalcy.

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