You may have heard rumors about the recent theatre production of “Joe Sent Me” or caught the melodic notes of a small group of singers warming up outside the 700 building. With COVID restrictions making performances a hassle, the actors and singers of Butler are more determined than ever to make their voices heard, even if that means going virtual.
Planning out a practice with theatre or choir while also following CDC guidelines was no easy feat. Everything from the number of people allowed to participate to stage arrangements were considered.
One of the changes made to theatre was using plays that accommodated social distancing. According to Set Designer Bernie Wonselter, this was a difficult process, but was much needed in order to stay within Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“Sometimes, though, in creating those restrictions you can be more creative with what you end up doing,” he said.
During practices, actors sit socially distanced across the stage and deliver their lines with masks on. Once they were ready for their official performances, masks could be removed. However, even with these precautions in place, Wonsetler believes the college could do more to inform students and faculty.
“It would be nice if everybody in the college including students would get a weekly or biweekly report of this many people have been tested, these are the positives and these are the contact tracings,” he said. “More information is better information.”
Along with theatre, vocal music groups have also been struggling with the changes. Vocal Music Professor and Concert Choir Director Matthew Udland shared the influence of the CDC’s guidelines on the choir’s practice arrangements.
“Our campus HVAC system is measured, so we know what the return rates and cycle rates are for all the rooms we rehearse in,” Udland said. “If you’re in a room that has that, you can have a group of people singing for up to 30 minutes before you have to vacate the room for an hour.”
This shortage of time presents a big problem for the choir groups. It is especially difficult for the concert choir, whose only practice room big enough to accommodate the whole group is the Clifford Stone rRoom in the Welcome Center.
Udland also mentioned how this year’s concert choir was limited to 90 people, and the group was divided in half for practices.
For both groups, the biggest change was the lack of a live performance. They are instead going to record their performances and post them on a media platform, although vocal music will only live-stream theirs on one day to keep costs low.
“As the science evolves, we will continue to evolve as well,” Udland said. “As more information becomes available and as quality treatments and health care options become available, obviously the college will continue to update its practices and vocal music will fall in line with those practices. If we have to choose the health and well-being of our students and faculty over making some music for a year, obviously we’re going to choose the health and well-being of our students and faculty.”