By Sam Bailey / Staff Writer

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of millions of people all around the world over the past few months. 

Many people have turned to art as a form of entertainment and way to destress in such trying times, whether they know it or not. 

For many, this comes in the form of movies and television shows. But what happens when the movies just aren’t enough to get through the long days of living through a worldwide pandemic?

Hutchinson Community College theatre department is hoping to provide the answer, while the department is in the process of rehearsing for a show that is due to be performed in September.

“People really need for artists to not go away; to not shut up,” said HutchCC Director of Theatre Deidre Mattox. “We have a social responsibility to still say we’re here (and) we have ideas. We would like to help you feel what you want to feel, because that’s what artists do.”

With this being said, the department was left with the monumental task of creating art that is usually intended for a live audience in a world where it is not safe to have one. 

“We talked about x-ing out chairs and having a smaller house, making them sit far apart from each other, but who knows what the situation will be in late September?” Mattox said. “I just think we need to have a plan in place that we are certain we can stick to by the end of September, and for me, that’s live streaming the show.”

The first production performed by the department will be live streamed across multiple platforms to be announced in the near future and the second show is set to be a 100% Zoom oriented production. 

While the audience’s safety is an issue, the more complicated problem lies in keeping the actors safe, as many shows have performers coming in close contact with each other. 

When planning rehearsals for the shows, Mattox said that she has constructed everything so that performers can stay socially distanced at all times. They may even go outside and spread out so they can see one another’s faces without masks. 

The show currently in production is a series of short plays and monologues that have to do with life during the pandemic. This allows for all the actors to stay socially distanced throughout the entire show. 

With all the new changes to the structure of theatre this year, Hutchinson freshman Andrew Voth said, “We’re going to have an empty auditorium for this first (show) and record everything on stage, which in theatre you’re supposed to have back and forth in person. I’m a little worried about it.”

Even though the challenge of not performing in front of a live audience may seem daunting, Voth also said, “Theatre kids in general are really resilient people, and we are really excited. We love putting on shows, no matter what way we do it, no matter what medium we go through.”

While theatre is normally thought to be performed in front of a live audience and with close interactions between actors, the HutchCC theatre department is working every day to bring their art to audiences in new and exciting, pandemic-allowed forms.

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