More bad news for theatre students

COVID-19 restriction signage on the exterior of York buildings and doors. (Courtesy of Mahdis Habibinia)

Students in the theatre department have been hard-hit by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The fall term was entirely adapted for Zoom, from studio classes to mainstage shows. Many were holding onto the hope that the winter term would see some version of in-person performances. 

However, as of earlier this month with the release of new AMPD-wide guidelines prohibiting any guests on campus, and the subsequent full closure of the university at large, the prospect of any in-person performances has become all but impossible. 

In the theatre department these restrictions have meant all mainstage productions, the playGround Festival, (a student run festival featuring twelve new works), along with the five companies in the Devised Theatre Festival are all having to change and adapt to an online platform. 

Hayley Crowder is a fourth-year art history student and stage manager for the playGround show the Trying Times of Sister Bunny running in February 2021. This is Crowder’s first time as a stage manager. “I was looking forward to being able to be in the booth and call the show. Obviously, this will not be happening. I am feeling a little unsure with how this part of the job will translate to a virtual format,” she says. 

Barbara Morron-Sanchez, a fourth-year theatre production and design student, is also dealing with the stress of adapting her costume designs for Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. Originally scheduled for fall 2020 in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre, this show was postponed till March 2021 in the hopes that by then in-person performances would resume. Most recent decisions have forced plans for an online show, and Morron-Sanchez’ designs need to adapt accordingly. 

“I now need to incorporate masks as part of the costumes and figure out a way to keep the spirit of sharing costumes in the show when actors are no longer able to share.”

“The COVID-19 restrictions have affected and changed the design in that I now need to incorporate masks as part of the costumes and figure out a way to keep the spirit of sharing costumes in the show when actors are no longer able to share,” she says. 

While Morron-Sanchez does not yet have all the answers for how the designs will work in March, she says, “ultimately it is a challenge that I’m excited to learn from.” 

Ian Garrett is an associate professor of Ecological Design for Performance and co-teaches the fourth-year devised theatre class in which students develop shows for the annual Devised Theatre Festival. He sees both pros and cons in the current situation. “A pro is that it has catalyzed a lot of questions about how we do things and why, and underscored the urgency that may have gotten lost in the busyness of the before times,” Garrett says. 

Garrett is also struck by the resilience and commitment he sees in his students faced with countless unexpected challenges. He adds, “What I think I see in my students is that we’re in this time with the pandemic, with a climate crisis, with necessarily reckoning around colonization and white supremacy that just requires art to be made. It’s how we make sense of experiences.” 

For more information and to reserve tickets for the upcoming Theatre@York season, visit https://theatre.ampd.yorku.ca/events/.

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By Céleste A. LaCroix

Former Editor

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