The Clark State College Theatre Arts Program will present its second live virtual production – Silent Sky - on Thursday, April 15 at 8 p.m.
“I’m pleased that the Theatre Arts Program has presented two live virtual shows this season,” said Theresa Lauricella, Professor of Theatre and Program Coordinator for Theatre & Music at Clark State. “While it has taken a great deal of research and development to do so, I’m happy we didn’t simply throw in the towel, thinking we couldn’t produce theatre virtually.”
Lauricella said while the participants in the program look forward to being in the theatre again, the team has continued exercising its craft, enhancing creativity, and learning new skills until it is safe to gather again.
“I wanted to ensure our students had a performance wherein they could learn and work, whether on screen or behind the scenes,” she said. “A bonus also has been the chance for the instructors, artists, and students to approach something new together. We’ve pieced together elements of theatre, film, and television with gaming technology to tell a 2- hour story.”
Lauricella said Another bonus has been hearing from non-theatre goers who attended the Fall production of She Kills Monsters.
“They appreciated having the opportunity to watch a theatre performance from their living room,” said Lauricella. “I’d like to see this continue. While a genuinely incredible theatre experience happens live in the same space with the performers, having audiences watch remotely doesn’t take anything away from the production; it merely allows for another type of theatre consumer.”
Silent Sky begins when Henrietta Leavitt begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s; she isn’t allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea. Instead, she joins a group of women “computers,” charting the stars for a renowned astronomer who calculates projects in “girl hours” and has no time for the women’s probing theories. As Henrietta, in her free time, attempts to measure the light and distance of stars, she must also take measure of her life on Earth, trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love. The true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt explores a woman’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when women’s ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them. Social progress, like scientific progress, can be hard to see when one is trapped among earthly complications; Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers believe in both, and their dedication changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth.
Actor Ally Miller will perform as Henrietta Leavitt in Silent Sky; she also performed in last year’s virtual production of She Kills Monsters.
“It (is) definitely easier in the second show,” said Miller. “In the first show, I was fairly confused about which way to face and where to look in reference to my scene partners via green screen. It took me about a few weeks to feel more comfortable with this format, and in this current show, I still get turned around from time to time. However, I developed some tricks that help with these concepts, and I am more confident in my abilities. “
Miller said she takes her role in the same way she would if it was in person by completing character development, practicing her lines, and ultimately performing in a similar fashion.
“Completing the show via green screen allows us as actors to be exactly where our character are, without the limitation of a confined stage area with a set number of scene changes,” she said. “Instead, we can smoothly transition from place to place, which is really helpful. I’ve also felt that having an image of whichever location my character happens to be at allows me to better experience the scene leading to better character development. “
Logan Phillips is a 2nd-year Technical Theatre major and Stage Manager for Silent Sky. Logan also Stage Managed the Fall virtual production. He said the second virtual performance seems to be easier.
“We know what we stumbled on last time, and we have planned for it and changed things around this time,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing how a realistic show like Silent Sky compares in this virtual space to the fantasy show we did last semester. We have all learned how to be flexible and adapt to a new art form quickly. It has been hard to keep going when things go wrong; however, we have always stuck with it, gotten the work done, and pioneered a new way of doing theatre. “
Phillips also stated he has noticed many theatres have been not doing performances or adapting “in these strange times.”
“I am thankful that Clark State has been flexible and that we were able to take this and turn it into something new and prove that it can work as well as live theatre,” he said. “This virtual realm of theatre is an experience and a new skill set that I will take with me throughout my career. It may look different, but we are still doing theatre, and it is still a showcase of the hard work of the actors and production team together. “
Lauricella said theatre is constantly adapting and believes virtual production techniques will be added to those adaptions moving forward.
“It’s certainly beneficial. We’ve challenged our creativity to make theatre in a remote setting. The production team creates scenes showing characters in one space; however, the reality is the actors are in entirely different places. Further proof that theatre practitioners are creative problem solvers.”
Audiences can watch the live-streamed virtual performance of Silent Sky. Stream Passes for each event are available at cstap.booktix.com. Adults: $10 | Students: $5