Anna Blake Patrick
OES Production has overcome the challenges of COVID-19 by viewing the spring One Acts through a different lens.
So what are we to expect for this year’s One Acts? With many of our student-actors scattered across the world, and social distancing regulations destroying the hope of an in-person audience, a typical performance is out of the question. Instead, our OES Production team has come up with an astute solution—one that has turned the challenges of a global pandemic into unique opportunities for the long-awaited spring performances.
The first of these opportunities is the transformation of an old storage area into a multifaceted theater space. Emily Stone of LS and US Performing Arts explains that “this is the first year we’ve created a one-act as an ensemble down in our new theater space in SPARC. As of the last six months, we’ve been working as a team to transform the woodshop and storage space into a film set of our very own.” With cautionary tape lines zigzagging across the Great Hall floor and no chance at room for a set, a designated Productions space is more imperative now than ever. Liam O. ’22 told me that, “the space [in SPARC] gives us full flexibility in a way that the Great Hall doesn’t; in the great hall, we had to set up our own floors to avoid damaging the original floor. We couldn’t leave props up; after rehearsals, we had to put everything away. But the space at SPARC gives us full flexibility and control of that area. Pete painted the floors all black and we’re going to repaint them black after every show, so we don’t have to worry about the quality of the floor if we’re drilling into it. This gives us so many more opportunities.”
The second opportunity that Production took advantage of is the usage of short films to connect with our OES student-actors and audiences who are currently all over the world. As Liam O. explains, due to the usage of film and videography, “We’re not limited to the sets in the theater. Filming opens up a lot of opportunities, both for the inclusion of people who are far away because they can film scenes by themselves and we can bring them in. We can film and splice together all of these different locations to create one big performance.” Not only can film bridge the gap between Oesians that COVID-19 has caused, but it will also create a new experience for actors and audiences alike. “Film is quite a different medium than live performance,” says Peter Buonincontro of Theater and Performing Arts. “It allows for hyper intentionality and minutia storytelling. Live performance is partly based on a community shared experience. However, both forms require that the viewer be put in a similar mindset, one of the “suspension of disbelief.”
Liam O. recounts the benefits of film: “The backdrops can be in different places, and we’re no longer limited to just a minute for scene changes and prop setups—we can spend a whole day setting up a new set and film there. It’s definitely a different experience because there isn’t one performance night. Instead, you have a release date and you just have to get everything done before then. You can film stuff at different times of the day and simulate weeks of progression in the story without having to do it all in the span of an hour and a half or two hours.” According to Liam, one specific example of how film creates broader opportunities is in the location of the sets. “This year we have scenes that take place in a treehouse. In-person, we can’t bring a tree house onto the stage. We can try to make it look like that or simulate that as best as possible, but we just can’t do that. But with filming, we can go to somebody’s house, who has a treehouse, and film there.”
As Peter Buonincontro says, “Our performers are engaged in a much different way with these pieces, because they will have the opportunity to hone in the delivery of their characters on set, over several takes. And in a lot of ways, having to condense a lot of performance over the course of just a couple of days requires agility as well as endurance, which I’m pleased to say our school has in abundance.”
Production is a core element of our school and every performance is an unforgettable gift. The Production team has risen to the challenges of the global pandemic and has gone beyond what any audience could expect. Stay tuned for more information on the spring One Acts, coming soon. To learn more about the impact and importance of OES Production, click here.