Theatre department produces a fall show amidst a pandemic

Director Grif Sadow leads senior Olivia Henson and sophomore Charlie Corbett during zoom rehearsals for the play

Photo by Sierra Penning

Director Grif Sadow leads senior Olivia Henson and sophomore Charlie Corbett during zoom rehearsals for the play “Kodachrome” by Adam Szymkowicz. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rehearsals have been switched to a virtual format.

Sierra Penning, Social Media Editor

The theatre department is just beginning rehearsals for its annual fall production. This year, in addition to the routine stresses of producing a show, the department must face an even bigger challenge: the ongoing pandemic. Actors, technicians and the staff involved must adhere to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) safety guidelines while still putting on a quality production. 

While there are no additional safety guidelines established for performers by the MDH, the well being of all involved in the production is still paramount. Grif Sadow, the District Theatre Coordinator and director of the department, is not only following the standard guidelines (social distancing, requiring masks, etc.), but also implementing additional precautions to keep participants safe.

“We’re probably not going to have a live audience, so we’ll be streaming a taped version of our production. Blocking [stage movement] actors will be 12 feet apart because speaking in a theatrical way or singing, you need more space without a mask. We will wear masks when we’re not taping or doing a run through and we won’t share costumes, props or wigs. Everything will be cleaned in between rehearsals,” Sadow explained. 

This year’s fall show is “Kodachrome” by Adam Szymkowicz, a dramatic comedy about the different stages of love. Selecting a show can be an arduous task. Directors have to take numerous factors into consideration. The most common being practicality and the overall content of the script. 

Sadow selected “Kodachrome” because, “it’s able to be recorded and streamed, and not all shows are able to do that. It’s made up of vignettes and small group scenes. Because I can only have so many actors on stage safely physically distanced that script made it possible.” He added, “The script itself, as I read it I actually got chills, it was just so well written. The characters, the relationships and the themes, just dealing with the importance of life, moment by moment, especially in this time in our lives.”    

After a successful week of auditions and callbacks, the cast of “Kodachrome” began rehearsals Sept. 29. In theatre the first rehearsals of a show are crucial for cast bonding. This year, however, with rehearsals being held almost exclusively through Zoom these opportunities for bonding can be limited. 

“It’s weird,” senior and actress in the show Avery Mitchell said. “That we’re not able to be together and share this accomplishment in person, but I’m sure we’ll have plenty of more time to bond over the next several weeks.”    

I think we have been shaken, but theatre people have an irrepressible spirit and they always find a way to come back.”

— Grif Sadow

Of course, the pandemic has not only affected those onstage, but those backstage as well. Technicians and others working behind the scenes have had to quickly adapt to alterations in the production process, such as a later start and alterations to work schedules. 

“We only got started last week (9/28-10/2) and we have less than a month before our first performance. Our time this year is also extremely limited due to the aforementioned late start and staggered days when we are allowed to be here on top of the fact that we have to be out of [the auditorium] by 4 pm every day so it can be cleaned,” sophomore technician Gavin Boren explained.   

Although the ability to produce the fall show is a spark of positivity for students and staff due to the pandemic many in the performing arts face an uncertain future. 

Sadow added, “I think we have been shaken, but theatre people have an irrepressible spirit and they always find a way to come back.”    

 District theatre coordinator and department director Grif Sadow: “The script itself, as I read it I actually got chills, it was just so well written. The characters, the relationships and the themes, just dealing with the importance of life, moment by moment, especially in this time in our lives.”