Theatre group optimistic despite shows canceled due to COVID-19

Rodrigo Hernandez, Staff Writer

With the sudden switch to online classes brought on by COVID-19, along with the abrupt cancellation of the spring and summer shows, City College theatre students have adapted to the online setting while performing from home. 

The theatre department planned for a three week run of mystery classic “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” but was forced to shut down production after just two weekends of performances.

“I find theatre to be a community and a family,” said Frances Manthrope, a City College student and part of the female ensemble in “Curious Incident.” 

Actors and students had been rehearsing for months, eager to perform in the play they had run countless times during their long rehearsal. And for many, the current play was an important one. 

“‘Curious Incident’ was important because of the representation of the main character, who is on the spectrum for autism,” said Elizabeth Saubestre, assistant stage manager at City College.

“Families with members that have autism gave a good reception to the show.”

Only three students from City College were a part of the cast, with local actors filling up the rest of the ensemble.

Like most classes, the theatre department utilized Zoom to create their virtual classroom, which comes with its own set of obstacles. 

“You’re not interacting with other people, and you don’t have that reaction of the audience,” said Katie Laris, stage director and instructor at City College. 

Laris teaches advanced and intermediate acting, along with directing shows. 

In addition to the spring show being canceled, students of her advanced class were preparing to perform a one-act play for the end of the semester before the announcement of the campus closure. 

Instead of having the students perform one act on stage, the students will be presenting six acts in small groups through Zoom. 

But acting on Zoom has not been an easy feat.

“I’m almost getting used to it, but it’s definitely strange,” said Anjolie Ochalek, a student of the theatre department. “It’s hard, but it’s the right thing to do to keep everybody safe.”

However, the cast was allowed to perform one more time at the Garvin, to a small and separated crowd, and were able to film it. 

Although “Curious Incident” and the summer musical was canceled, the theatre department remains cautiously optimistic for the fall production.

“The theatre will return,” said Laris, “The world needs theatre to tell the stories of humans. Stories of kindness and courage.”