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The Show Must Go On

Student performance groups adjust their art to a new, virtual reality.

Opera Hero
Bienen School of Music faculty members Hans Thomalla and Alan Pierson worked on the September premiere of the opera Dark Spring. Composed by Thomalla and conducted by Pierson, the production in Mannheim, Germany, featured socially distanced performers andImage: Hans Jörg Michel

Winter 2021

When student performance groups returned to campus in the fall, social distancing and crowd safety guidelines forced them to adjust their art to a new, virtual reality. For example, Refresh Dance Crew, which performs to hip-hop and pop songs, had its members record themselves performing dance moves at home, then compiled the videos to create coordinated online performances.

Lovers & Madmen, a Northwestern Student Theatre Coalition organization centered around classical performances, put on its production of The Trojan Women using StreamYard, a live streaming service.

“One of the hardest parts about switching to a virtual format is that you don’t have the audience with you,” says sophomore Arella Flur, the show’s producer. “StreamYard allows comments to feed into the actors’ streams, so they can all see the audience giving them love during the show.”

Flur’s 25-person team rehearsed remotely, and designers sent actors costumes and props. While the actors had to adjust to singing by themselves, being their own crew and managing microphones and lighting, their efforts were a success.

“There’s this whole mentality right now that theater is dying,” says Flur. “But theater has always been a form that has adapted. We’re still doing what theater has always done by telling stories and building communities.

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