The Benedictine College Department of Theatre & Dance has been faced with the challenge of presenting theatre in the midst of COVID-19 regulations on campus this semester.

Since campus social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines apply to on-stage productions, the department has been forced to think of creative strategies to engage both its students and audiences.

Therefore, instead of producing traditional theatre live on-stage, the faculty and students have found alternative ways to showcase their art through charrettes. 

For the first charrette of the semester, An Enemy of the People, the cast recorded four of the five acts through Zoom and one act on-stage with masks on. The project premiered at the Benedictine Art Day and is uploaded online for viewers to watch for free.

The two other charrettes of the semester will also be presented in a non-traditional format. The Good Doctor will be a combination of pre-filmed vignettes, and The Visit will be a radio show.

Derek Trautwein addresses how a scene in ‘The Good Doctor’ should be set up. Photo by William Russum.

All of the charrettes will soon be uploaded to a website along with information of the design process for each show to provide viewers with a more in-depth background of what went into designing the work.

Dr. Scott Cox, the chair of the department, believes that although these changes have been difficult, this unique process has allowed his students to develop expertise in different areas of theatre.

“In a way, we’re working more intensely on scripts than a normal rehearsal process allows us to do, and we’re getting some fairly deep analytical glimpses into the thematics of the world, the structural dramaturgy. For a theatre guy, it’s actually pretty fun because we don’t have the pressure of performance looming over us … I guess it’s kind of luxurious because you really just get to create,” Cox said.

Evan Gorman, senior, gets some assistance from one of the crew members to put on a mask. Photo by William Russum.

Celina Hinkel, senior at Benedictine College, was the Assistant Director of An Enemy of the People and played Madam Hovstad.

Reflecting on the process, Hinkel said that her and her classmates had to be flexible with learning how to act through video instead of on stage with an audience.

“When you’re with other people, you can feed off of each other’s energy and you’re looking each other in the eye, whereas you have to kind of create a different sort of energy when it’s just you alone in a room looking at a screen, and so that was an adjustment for all of us,” Hinkel said.

However, amid the current unpredictable environment, Hinkel believes that now more than ever it is important to pursue the department’s mission statement to entertain, to educate, and to enlighten.

“I think specifically now when there’s all this uncertainty and we don’t really know what’s going on, it’s important to create beauty, to actively seek to provide art, not only to our community but to make it more accessible like with being able to share it online in general with families all over the country,” Hinkel added.

Upcoming audition dates and the link to virtual shows will be posted on the department’s Facebook page @BenedictineTheatre.