Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2021


“ Dr. Brett D. Johnson said canceling productions was never an option for the Mercyhurst Theatre Program. Our productions are in some ways the most important thing we do, he explained. They are our laboratory. It s where students put theory into practice. Everything they learn in Acting I and script analysis and theatre history gets put into practice through production work. Once he determined that in-person performances weren t feasible during fall term, he came up with a pair of alternatives that could be shared virtually. In the lead-up to Halloween, the Theatre Program presented The Canterville Ghost over Zoom. Frequent collaborator Mary Barile adapted the Oscar Wilde classic and Johnson and his team went to work. ” “ ’ ” ’

’ students had the experience of performing, even though they couldn t invite the public to watch them. - Early in the term, students began working on pieces that would ordinarily have been part of a gala, semester ending performance. For guest choreographers from across the country, that meant using Zoom to work with small groups of students. Meanwhile, upper-level students were creating their own works for the Choreography Showcase and casting their classmates to perform. Dressing rooms and lockers were of limits, so students carried large bags to stow their gear during class. Masks and regular temperature checks became a way of life. Trafc patterns were modifed. Studios were mopped and sanitized many times a day – often by faculty members who added these extra duties to their teaching loads while also supervising rehearsals that stretched long into the evening. Besides classes, faculty made sure their ’ “I m really proud of what we did. We continued to fulfll our educational goals – and we gave our students the opportunity to do something they love during a very challenging time, he added. Hundreds tuned in to watch the four productions of Ghost . ” Johnson even delivered tech gear, costumes and props to students studying remotely in Mentor, Ohio, and Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. Johnson said the tech aspects were challenging, but it was fun fguring out how to pass objects from one actor to another, or how to make the ghost appear and disappear. The Theatre Program experimented with a very diferent format for its holiday show – a radio play of A Dickens of a Carol . Barile had created the show for a traditional Mercyhurst production during Christmas season 2019, but

’ Partusch said the dancers are resilient. “I ve told them from the beginning that this has not been easy, but I am ever so thankful that you re not in your bedroom dancing; you are on a good, safe foor, taking classes. ’ ” For one weekend in October, the department converted a studio into a makeshift stage where all these dance numbers could be recorded. Vertical blinds and black curtains covered windows and mirrors, skylights were covered, and special lighting and three video cameras were installed. Each cast in turn performed in full costume, following strict COVID guidelines. The space had to be completely sanitized before another group could take its place. “ Anything that was visual now needed to be aural, Johnson pointed out. “In most theatrical productions, things that you see aid in the storytelling or convey information about the characters. Now the audience needs to hear those details, or have them narrated. You need a description to help you visualize the Ghost of Christmas Past that just appeared. ” ” “ Johnson played Charles Dickens, while alumna Bethany Sulecki directed the play. It was one of the largest casts ever for a Mercyhurst production, with more than 40 people recording their parts in their homes or residence halls. Our alums were also eager for creative projects, so besides current students, we featured alumni from as far away as Texas, the Carolinas, and even Ireland, he explained. A Dickens of a Carol was available on SoundCloud throughout the Christmas season. ” it needed some major modifcations to work in the audio drama format. Spring semester challenges include helping seniors complete their capstone projects, staging the Raw Edges choreography showcase, and advising graduating seniors as they plan for an uncertain future.

The eight cast members rehearsed and performed their roles without masks in

separate rooms behind closed doors, equipped with new solid black backdrops and webcams.

’ DANCE Mercyhurst s A/B system – with half the students attending class via Zoom to keep classroom density down – just wouldn t work for the Mercyhurst Dancers. ’ “ We had to be here in person every day, said Dance Department Chair C. Noelle Partusch. “It wasn t easy, but I have a really amazing faculty and staf who are incredibly creative. They found ways to make it happen. ” ’ ” ’ both adjoining studios, as teachers moved between them and shared demonstrations through computers. The stage of the Mary D Angelo Performing Arts Center – dark during the fall as live COVID restrictions limited the two danceSpace studios to just a dozen dancers each plus a faculty member. Each dancer was assigned spaces – a 6-foot section of the barre and a 12-foot square on the foor. Larger classes flled performances were canceled – was transformed into another large studio. The bare plywood stage was covered with the same surface used during dance concerts, and the space was outftted with pipe barres, standing mirrors, and a giant TV monitor.


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