Social distancing and the arts: the show must go on

Tabetha DeGroot- Staff Writer

Contributed Photo

The Black Box Theater has been uninhabited for quite some time, but it is once again filled with life. For the first time since March, actors command the stage at a regular weeknight practice. 

The stage is currently more of a clearing between chairs, benches, and numerous props and set pieces. Some actors sit among the clutter, studying their lines or doing homework. Others are simply goofing around, but as soon as they cross the threshold onto the stage, they enter a different world. Even though they wear masks and street clothes, they have become different people as they move about the space, delivering lines. Director Laurel Koerner circles around the stage, observing the work of her actors from every angle. It’s a typical Tuesday night in the Black Box, but it’s long overdue. 

This year’s fall mainstage, Arms and The Man, is set to be performed on the weekends of October 15-17 and 22-24. Arms and the Man is a nineteenth century comedy written by George Bernard Shaw. The play, set during the 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian war, uses comedy to point out the foolishness of war and the fickleness of human nature. 

“Seemed like a good time to do a comedy and bring some levity to campus.” Koerner said when asked why she chose Arms and the Man for this year’s fall mainstage. The show will provide a nice escape with colorful characters and smart humor.

Rehearsals are going smoothly now, but as with everything in these times, there have been a good deal of obstacles. 

“We were missing two of our seven actors for the first two weeks [due to COVID-19]” said Koerner, “Which just meant kind of flip-flopping some of the typical steps in the process.” 

The actors in quarantine attended practices via Zoom. When asked what the performances will look like, Koener said that it “remains to be seen.” For now, the actors wear masks and pantomime scenes that involve physical contact, but the hope is to have a normal performance. 

Despite the COVID-related obstacles, creativity still shines through on the stage. “[We’re] finding new ways to be creative,” said senior Selena Munson, who plays Raina, one of the lead female roles, “It has been a little bit frustrating at some points because we have to have masks on all the time and I feel like facial expressions can be such a large part of comedy especially, but overall… I don’t think its really held us back.”  

Junior Gerrit Vandyk, who plays the role of Major Paul Petkoff, also found the rehearsals to have have gone surprisingly well. “I think one of the coolest things is watching all of the characters come to life.” he said, “As soon as you get the words [of the script] off the page and into mouths.. everything becomes a lot clearer and more fun.” 

Tickets can be purchased on dordt.edu, but the cabinet and theater department are still in discussion about who will be allowed in the audience and how Dordt’s color code will affect performances. While the final product remains a bit of a mystery for now, the show must go on.

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