The heart of performing arts, especially theatre, is the human element. As an actor, feeling the vibrant energy of a live audience is an incomparable feeling.
“The feeling of walking onstage is stomach-dropping excitement. It’s really incredible to work so hard on creating something and then to have people come and watch,” said Savannah McCarter, who is performing the part of Leading Player in COC’s production of Pippin.
“I love connecting with people and seeing their faces react to our art. There’s no feeling quite like getting a standing ovation for your hard work.”
Matthew McCray, Director of Pippin, says that the art of theatre lies in the fact that it’s an experience that will only be there for one night.
Unfortunately the Coronavirus pandemic has made a live performance impossible.
It may have been easier to cancel the whole production, but the theatre program at COC is dedicated to giving the students in the cast of Pippin the most they can get out of this less than ideal situation.
“In the theatre, there’s always something. It’s obviously not always a global pandemic, but there’s always a challenge that makes you compromise a choice.” McCray said.
This particular challenge has been difficult to overcome, but McCray has remained steadfast in making this production happen, no matter the circumstance.
“The worst thing you can do is practice defeat, or practice surrender. I was proud of us for taking on that challenge. “
Even before COVID-19 hit, our day-to-day lives were dependent on the use of technology.
McCray’s vision for Pippin had this concept in mind before the production made the switch to an online format.
“Originally, we were gonna do Pippin exploring how technology and internet connectivity has taken away meaningful relationships and meaningful connections.”
The set was big, the costumes were ambitious, and the stage was set for a larger than life show.
“The irony here is that when the global pandemic happened, and the production went to webcam, technology was the only thing that allowed us to stay connected at all,” McCray explained. “I’ve never done something like this on this scale before, through Zoom and the Internet.”
McCray also says converting a full-scale production into what is essentially going to be a feature-length film has been riddled with issues, only solvable by trial and error.
“Everybody is learning as we go. Rehearsals take longer, and it’s harder to read people as a director. The way that I engage with everyone when we have full cast events is constantly sabotaged by slow wifi issues. There’s always something.”
In the midst of the current global crisis, fears have also arisen regarding the future of theatre and McCray is worried.
“Long term, I’m nervous about how we recover, how do we build, how do we not let the importance of theatre, or the popularity of theatre in people’s lives fully dip. It’s already impossible for theaters to make ends meet and cover costs. My biggest fear is that this will add to that challenge in very large ways.”
Despite the difficulties and fears among the community, lots of progress has been made in the show and the cast is now in the process of recording scenes and dance numbers.
“Individual performances I think are really on track, and that’s an impressive accomplishment given the challenges of not only this, but also starting from a traditional process and then pulling the rug out with this new frame of performance,” McCray said.
“I think the students are to be really commended for figuring it out on the fly.”
After all, the show must go on.