‘But a dream within a dream’: Theater students to stream recorded Poe-themed production

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The fall production will feature short stories and poetry. It was pre-recorded in a fully remote setting.

Lucia Kouri, City Life Editor

Halloween is the perfect time to revisit one of American literature’s most well known writers, Edgar Allen Poe, whose work has paved the way for modern gothic writings.

Theater students are working on a tight schedule in preparation for their virtual production “An Evening with Edgar Allen Poe” on Oct. 29-31, which will feature a collection of stories and poems by Edgar Allen Poe.

Much like their spring production of “Something Rotten!” the theater department has decided to pre-record their show and livestream over three nights for viewers to watch.

“It’s not one cohesive thing, but more like individual poems and scripts,” said junior Yannik Leuz, an actor and assistant director for the show. “Some of these poems are currently ready to be filmed, and some of them aren’t.”

Unlike in past years, when theater productions heavily depended on collaboration among the entire theater cast, this performance will be a collection of individual acts. The entire theater cast is split into small groups, each responsible for recording individual poems or stories which will be edited to make full production.

Yannik added that. Under usual circumstances, actors would spend long hours gathering in the theater auditorium repeatedly watching the rehearsals of fellow actors, even when they weren’t personally involved with a particular scene. But this year, because of the individualized recording process, most of the actors will not have seen the full production until opening night — just like any ordinary viewer.

“Many of the actors will be there at the show watching it,” Yannik said.

On an average Tuesday in previous years, theater members would gather together in the dim Sherry Lansing Theater space to discuss rehearsal progress while eating their lunches. This year, not much has changed besides the addition of a Zoom screen separating actors. Theater members still attend these weekly meetings at lunch along with two-hour rehearsals every day after school.

Liucija Ambrosini, the drama teacher and director, claims that students have been deeply immersed in the work of Edgar Allen Poe throughout these rehearsals.

“The cast is very intricately involved in the stories and works of Edgar Allen Poe, and they are rediscovering how incredible these are,” Ms. Ambrosini said.

According to Inga Domenick, a junior and the theater manager who has been working closely with Ms. Ambrosini, technical difficulties have made it harder to rehearse. Many actors depend on the energy of fellow actors or an audience to fully embody the role they are playing. A sudden loss of internet connection, or delayed speaking over Zoom can kill the energy actors normally depend upon.

You really need to build your own energy. We’ve had to, as actors, learn to adapt to only having so much space.”

— Yannik Leuz

“For most people it is hard to keep their energy up,” Inga said, “and sometimes the lag causes energy drops.”

Yannik is experiencing similar challenges with rehearsing through a screen. 

“You really need to build your own energy,” Yannik said. “We’ve had to, as actors, learn to adapt to only having so much space.”

Inga said the remote environment created new difficulties with communication, particularly when it came to casting and organizing meetings. 

“The most difficult part was getting the news out,” Inga said. “I had to send out many emails and even turn to social media.”

Though the production and rehearsals are fully remote, Elena Stern, who is in charge of hair and makeup, is planning to provide materials to actors. 

“I am going to work on setting up pick up at school,” Elena said. “After that I will create videos to help people learn how to do their makeup.”

Despite the challenges of navigating a remote environment, theater members are ready to see their hard work finally pay off. 

“Navigating all this has been a bit of a challenge, but still fun,” Elena said. “Everyone is working so hard, and I can’t wait to see all the pieces fall into place!”