Student Experimental Theater prepares for virtual performance

Peter Pu, News Editor

The cast of this winter’s Student Experimental Theater production have adapted their student-run rehearsals to the challenges of a virtual format.

Deep breath.

“My dear Ivan Vassilevitch! I am extremely glad to see you here!” exclaimed junior Jane Barnard, playing Chubukov in “A Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov.

Videoconference breakout rooms opened during Student Experimental Theater rehearsals are unlike any others.

On a Friday rehearsal, one group runs the script of “A Marriage Proposal,” while another led by junior Natalie Hultquist and senior Elena Stern carefully plans out the blocking and costumes for “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

As with previous SET productions, the organized atmosphere is driven completely by students. Through virtual rehearsals, the actors and directors have sought to preserve aspects of in-person theater while adapting their practices to work around challenges of not being with each other.

Premiering Feb. 26, SET will feature 12 plays either written by students or selected from works of various playwrights. The SET board this year consists of seniors Jasmine Tan and Elena, juniors Inga Domenick, Juliet Di Teresa, Yannik Leuz, Kara Tao, Kennedi Bickham, Natalie and sophomore Lorelei Deakin.

Improving from last spring’s virtual performance of “Something Rotten,” Yannik noted that members put together smaller casts focusing on the main characters.

“‘Something Rotten’ was like your typical musical with big scenes, lots of people,” Yannik said. “That didn’t really work that well, and in the remote environment, smaller casts work better.”

Actors and directors began rehearsing via Zoom Jan. 13, with hourlong rehearsals scattered throughout the week. Actors may run the script, and according to Jane, receive critiques on enunciation, emotion and character development from their directors.

Jasmine, who directs the four monologues in the program, helps actors convey their characters. She has found her work difficult but rewarding.

“Trying to give direction of physical things without being able to physically demonstrate or physically be there to help reposition them has been really a challenge, but it’s been really good,” Jasmine said.

According to Jasmine, some considerations include how a character stands, pacing lines and energy level.

“Working with these actors to get higher energy levels in some parts, and then slowing it down in this part, and then bringing it back up over here — these types of things are really things that we work on and try to really get into the script as they really help build the character and build the show,” Jasmine said.

While some aspects of a character are easily conveyed over Zoom, others are more difficult to preserve.

“Physical interactions are like very, very difficult,” Yannik said. “There are ways that you can get around it, but, like, in general, you can’t really have that much physical interaction.”

Even when involving a single individual, Yannik said that blocking is more confined as characters cannot switch from sitting down to standing up without extending beyond the boundary of the screen.

“You can’t, like, start on one and then go to the other end of the stage, go back or something,” Yannik said. “You’re just kind of stuck in the same place.”

We don’t get to goof around in the theater and like just be together and feed off of each other’s energy.”

— Jasmine Tan

In addition, Jasmine has noticed actors face challenges even beyond the characters they play. As videoconference rehearsals are shorter than in-person rehearsals, cast members spend less time with each other, and maintaining morale is a challenge.

“We don’t get to goof around in the theater and like just be together and feed off of each other’s energy,” she said.

According to Jane, despite the challenges of virtual rehearsals, cast members still incorporate lots of aspects meant for the stage when performing the dramatic pieces that predate the pandemic.

“They were written in like 1890 or something,” Jane said, “and they weren’t meant for any sort of technological device, but we can still perform them pretty well online.”

Planned SET winter program

“Typical Lab Student” by Jane Barnard, U-High student
“Every Breakout Room Ever” by Jane Barnard, U-High student
“Sally Monologue” from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”
“A Marriage Proposal” by Anton Chekhov
“Zoo Story” by Edward Albee
“Charlie Brown Monologue” from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”
“Pity the Fool” by D. M. Larson.
“Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Lucy Monologue” from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”
“A Few Words” by Nick Emerton, U-High student
“Peppermint Patty Monologue” from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”
“Cinema Limbo” by Wade Bradford