Photo courtesy of JLBoone Photography
The School of Music, Theatre and Dance will kick off the return to campus by putting on a performance of Kate Hamil’s rendition of “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen. The road here wasn’t easy, and director Karen Sheridan talks about some of the challenges along the way.
“The actors weren’t all in a room together and did not have an opportunity to develop relationships in a play by being with each other,” Sheridan says. “Theatre is a collaborative art form, seldom for a director to tell where to move and then actors get up and volunteer and offer adjustments but over Zoom it’s not possible.”
To assist her students after being on Zoom all day for classes, Sheridan would cut the amount of time spent together at night. Eventually the theatre department was able to get into Varner Hall a week early on Jan. 24, but that was the first time the actors saw the new space setup.
One of the leads of the show Emily Nichter — who plays Elinor — says the theatre department has done everything possible to adapt to the difficulties of COVID-19.
“I think it could have been very easy for the department to put a hold or outright cancel productions throughout this time, and thankfully we’ve been able to avoid that mostly,” Nichter says. “No one could have ever anticipated the issues that COVID has brought upon us, and I find that the performance community has really had to become inventive to still make it work somehow.”
COVID-19 has allowed Nichter to get out of her comfort zone, which is something she is always looking for.
“Building confidence in any and all work I do is a journey I’ll always be on, and I think it’s given me the opportunity to adjust to whatever a process calls for, managing any changes that may come our way and be almost willing to go with the flow.”
Virtual rehearsals, while not the most effective, could become more of a reality in the future, Madeline Daunt — who plays Marianne — thinks.
“Virtual rehearsals are never anyone’s first choice, but Zoom has been a fantastic option to turn to in situations like a snow day when the university shuts down,” Daunt says. “Before COVID we would have just lost that rehearsal day, but we were all able to join a Zoom call and work on the show.”
Daunt hopes the audience will think about their personal and familial relationships and how they can best support the people around them upon watching the show.
“It is easy to think that people who lived hundreds of years ago did not share the same thoughts and feelings that we have today, but every theme we explore in ‘Sense and Sensibility’ is timeless and applicable in the business of practicing empathy,” Daunt says.
In her 30 years at OU, Sheridan says this is the weirdest thing that has happened, from going in-person back in November, then online post winter break and now back in-person for tech week before the show.
Sheridan is extremely proud of the work put in by the actors and those behind the scenes, as it was not possible without everyone helping each other.
“We are right on track where we would normally be if we were in-person the whole time and actually going better than that,” Sheridan says. “That is a testament to work for all the students on stage and off.”
The show will be performed in the Varner Studio Theatre from Wednesday, Feb. 16 to Saturday, Feb. 19 with ticket prices ranging from $8 to $15 dollars.
For showtimes and ticket purchases, visit etix.com.