Live theater alters ways during COVID-19


Virgil Hajdys, left, and Ravyn Davis, right, rehearse for the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo by Nick Muller.

Abigail Larson

For many actors and audience members, part of the enjoyment of theater comes from the live experience. However, because of COVID-19 and the danger in-person performances can pose, recording productions is often the only option. Such is the case for Augustana’s recent production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.”
While the original performances of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” were set to take the stage in November of 2020, COVID-19 complications pushed the dates into the current spring term. With the postponement came the news that all performances would be recorded.
The people involved with the show had always planned to do a recording for one night of virtual performances, but when all the performances were set to be recordings, questions arose for assistant director and junior, Rebecca Casad.
“It was sort of put on like a normal production in a lot of ways. But then it’s discussing, ‘okay, we need camera crews. Do we need a boom mic? Where are we putting the cameras? How is the audio quality going to be?’” Casad said.
Yet another challenge was posed for the actors, a two-month break between rehearsals and recording.
However, after returning to campus for spring term, those involved with the show regrouped for two weeks of rehearsals to find their rhythm again. Following those two weeks were two nights of recording in late February. One night was reserved for senior James Wheeler as Christopher, the lead, and the second night for understudy and senior Virgil Hajdys.
An unforeseen benefit for the actors came with the recording process. When a scene didn’t go as planned there was the opportunity to re-record a scene; a chance not given in a live performance. This proved especially helpful with technical issues, which were more common given the amount of technology used in the show.
While having the option of redoing a part of the performance was welcome in some situations, the extra technology had drawbacks too. In addition to adapting to the extra equipment on set, during the taping of Hajdys’ performance, the audio stopped recording, forcing them to go back and re-record the first 15 minutes of the show again.
“It’s so frustrating because I had to re-record some of the scenes I had thought went really well just because the camera didn’t pick up the audio,” Hajdys said.
An additional challenge of filming the show was the lack of audience. There was a small audience during the taping of the performances, but actors rely heavily on the reactions of the people watching them.
“A lot of acting is you feed off the energy of the audience and when the audience is like five people, it’s really hard,” , Hajdys said.
William Crouch, a sophomore who plays one of the voices Christopher hears, also adds that the versatility of theatre is lost when those performing cannot see their audience.
“When it comes to film it’s definitely different because you’re not catering to an audience and reading the room at that moment, you’re sticking to a decision that’s going to happen no matter what,” Crouch said.
Despite this, there is a benefit to the recording process: accessibility.
“In a time like this when we’re just trying to get theater to people…for me, it becomes less about us and the work that we’re doing, and more about we just want to get this out for people. They want to see something that resembles normalcy,” Wheeler said.
Recorded performances give family and friends the opportunity to see shows and enable others to continue to support and enjoy theatre during the pandemic.
Though the recording process had its challenges, the end result kept actors acting and allowed the audience to keep watching.
“There’s always that little bit that we wish it could be like normal again but there’s a bright side to it, and the bright side is that we get to share it still. We get to have theatre happen,” Wheeler said.
Photo Above: Virgil Hajdys, left, and Ravyn Davis, right, rehearse for the production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo by Nick Muller.