Theater majors find new ways to develop and maintain their craft amidst coronavirus restrictions

So much of a theatre major’s work depends on other people: performing with and for them. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, theatre majors are adapting to new ways of showcasing their craft. 

According to Grace Ward, a senior theatre major at Boise State, studying theatre arts during the current time is like studying ancient Roman history.

“You’re studying what was and what could be,” Ward said. “But there’s no present for the industry.”   

Theatre on Zoom has become the new normal for those studying theatre arts, but, according to Ward, it does not bring her the same joy as producing live theatre. 

Though she does not feel limited in the work she can accomplish, she feels that what is being produced is completely different. Instead of live theatre, Ward is focusing on film. 

“I’m very curious about animation,” Ward said. “I’m just trying to follow what I’m curious about right now.” 

Illustration by Abi Millet

Along with film, Ward is also working on a family-friendly podcast for the Halloween season. She has been co-writing and co-producing it with friends. 

“This process feels like it would be if there was no COVID,” Ward said. “It’s been really fun and relaxing.” 

Though it may seem like theatre is currently non-existent, Boise State’s Theatre Majors Association has been working hard to produce virtual theatre, according to Ward. She urges people to follow the association and keep an eye out for their productions. 

Gordon Reinhart, a professor of theatre arts at the university, said that theatre is about human connection, and that despite the limitations the department is facing, the performers have still found ways to connect virtually. 

“I get to see my students’ faces up close on the screen,” Reinhart said. “Good acting is when I can see the actor really thinking through something when they’re performing and I get to see that on screen.” 

According to Reinhart, he has had to change the way he thinks about teaching theatre arts over the last few months, but there are many benefits to the changes that have been made. 

“I’ve had to rethink everything,” Reinhart said. “I’ve been struggling all summer learning how to teach theatre online. I feel I’ll be a better teacher when we can get back in the classroom.” 

Though students are finding new ways to adapt, Reinhart feels limited in the work he can accomplish. He’s already thinking about next semester and the opportunities that will provide, as long as the coronavirus is not an issue. 

Reinhart says that a way to help theatre majors is to keep showing up as an audience. 

“What’s really sad is that actors are devoid of an audience right now,” Reinhart said. “Don’t forget that you’re an audience.” 

Michael Montanus, a senior theatre major, is worried about the state and future of his career. 

“We’re living in a world of uncertainty,” Montanus said. “I’m not sure if our livelihood will ever return to the way it was.”  

Despite there being many online productions and socially-distanced productions, Montanus is trying to keep the art of theatre alive at Boise State. For him, the outbreak has opened up a new vein of work that he has never experienced before. 

“Right now, I’m working on an audio production that’s like a radio show,” Montanus said. “It’s going to be incredibly interesting because I’ve never done something like this before.” 

Montanus feels that the current show he is in lends itself to socially-distanced actors, but is not sure how a more intimate production would unfold. According to Montanus, the rehearsal process has been following guidelines. 

For Montanus, the best way to help theatre majors is to do your part in staying healthy so that life will return to normal as quickly as possible. 

“Wear your mask and stay healthy,” Montanus said.

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