JONESBORO — Arkansas State University students are getting creative with their theater production amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, when the virus first became serious in the United States, Marc Williams, director of the university production of “The Tempest,” first planned to create an audio recording of the students performing the play.
But the COVID situation became more serious, and students couldn’t even gather to practice.
“We didn’t want the students to feel like we were just abandoning the work,” said Claire Abernathy, the show’s costume designer.
So Williams, the interim chairman and assistant professor of theater, then decided he wanted to video the entirety of the play on Zoom and upload it to a website. But after discussing the idea further, he determined that it wouldn’t be a fair representation of the students’ abilities.
“I don’t really feel like it’s a fair presentation of what the students are capable of,” Williams said.
But Williams has finally decided upon the final presentation of the show. Each division within the play will create its own webpage and display aspects of theatrical work prepared for the play.
The students have now videoed each act of the play, and Williams will put the strongest scenes online to showcase their work.
“We just sort of had to scale back a little bit what our expectations were going to be for what that final project was going to be,” Williams said.
The most important part of continuing the work was for the students to continue to learn and grow in their roles, Williams said.
“The key is that we wanted to make sure that we completed our work,” Williams said.
He said the play has become less about the material itself and more about the students’ resilience when faced with a pandemic and then a tornado, which impacted the entire cast. One actor had to abandon her role following the tornado.
Continuing work on the play shows “how the students have weathered a tempest of their own,” Williams said.
Williams said he plans to have all the materials assembled separately by the beginning of next week. By mid-May, Williams will have the final website completed.
Derek Jenkins, an assistant professor of music theory and composition and the music director and arranger for the play, said students will assist him in determining what becomes part of the online exhibit.
Abernathy also said students will assist her in determining what to put online. Prior to moving the show online, she hadn’t been able to complete any of the costumes.
“And I think it’s an interesting way to show people how much work goes into what we do into one costume,” Abernathy said.
Her webpage will show sketches and research of the costumes to show people the amount of work that goes into creating the outfits.
“So some of the students’ work will still be shown just in a very different kind of way,” Abernathy said.