The Show Must Go On


Screenshot by Kayla Martin

Hannah White, Grace Fisher, Shelby Gordy, Adelyn Hall, and Marcos Vega during their play A.M.L.

The theater class makes a surprising comeback after months of silence. Most would assume they would hold off their performances until they could act on stage again. However, they have adapted to an online presence and have been creating videos to stream onto YouTube for all to see.

“It’s been interesting,” theater teacher Sunshine Parsons said. “Specifically because I’ve been an acting coach for twenty years and this was less acting and more filmmaking. Usually, the videotaping is something our technicians have to deal with.”

Starting at the beginning of the year, the theater class began acting, recording, and editing the traditional Senior Directs. Senior Directs are short plays directed by students who have participated in the theatre program since their freshman year. . The four seniors who volunteered this year are Alysen Sherburne, Marcos Vega, Hannah White, and Lucy Kulzick.

“I think that going into it, I was very prepared for the worst,” Vega said. “There wasn’t much complaint from me. I knew that I had to make the best of it and that this was a circumstance that would never happen again. It was a good opportunity to really figure out what I can do.” 

Keeping with tradition, the majority of senior directors chose their scripts online. They also chose their actors and seven-week time slots in a private call. Sherburne and Vega took the first time showing in October, while White and Kulzick took the showing in December. 

“There’s this website I know called Dramatists Play Service,” Vega said. “I chose that play because I liked how abstract it was. I liked the flexibility it had.” 

Vega’s play, A.M.L. was about the five emotions of one woman struggling on how to cope with her boyfriend’s Leukemia. Each actor had different lighting behind them to display each stage of grief the main character was going through.

“I really liked the idea of how abstract it was because I knew that the more I could put it into an abstract setting the easier it was going to be to do virtually,” Vega said. “That was definitely something that I had in mind.”

Usually, the school provides the performers with their props. However, due to the virtual setting, the actors had to supply the props themselves. 

“It was definitely tough ‘cause there were a lot of things we had to work around and figure out,” senior Grace Fisher said. “We’ve always been on stage, so figuring out how to make a video when we’re all in different locations and we’re not able to give each other props or costumes or anything was really rough.” 

While acting online definitely had its downs, it also had ups that the actors were able to benefit from.

“The easiest part was the acting,” senior Shelby Gordy said. “Whenever you’re on stage you have to over-exaggerate so everyone in the audience can see but for acting for the camera it’s easier to ‘act normal’ than it is to over-exaggerate.” 

Sherburne was the director of ‘Out of Touch’, a play about a college student struggling with social media addiction. 

“I didn’t feel like adopting a play,” Sherburne said. “So I decided to write my own. It took three to four weeks and I took inspiration from my own experiences and addiction in my own family, so I got really invested.” 

Out of Touch was the only original play out of all the senior directs. It was being written during the acting and filming process.

“In hindsight, I wish I gave myself more time and wasn’t so ambitious,” Sherburne said.

Like all of the senior directs this year, Out of Touch was acted and filmed via Zoom. This was a new medium for the actors who each had a different experience. Technical difficulties, such as lag and the occasional case of losing footage, were obstacles that the actors and directors alike had to overcome.

“I’m going to be honest, I did not enjoy the experience,” senior Annie Stubbs said. “It was not the same, I like being a part of the community and you don’t really get that through Zoom.”

Though there were still good things that came from this adventure.

“We had the room to do anything to make it work,” senior Lucy Kulzick said. “We were able to do new things and gave us more experience. Everyone was also really flexible and really cool about the whole thing.”

Sherburne took advantage of the online format by experimenting with Instagram messages for the audience to see and hear.

“The easiest part was just creating lives for the characters because from the script I felt like I understood them, so creating their lives was really fun,” senior and techie Carolyn Stennis said. “I helped create Instagram accounts for each character and we made background text messages to make it look like it was real.”

All of the directs were live streamed via YouTube for everyone, including the actors. This was something that had never been done before at Stony Point but it was welcomed by the viewers and actors alike.

“It was really nice,” senior Max Diaz said. “Usually whenever they would host plays before the whole pandemic happened you’d have to get a ride there and have money in order to go but now with the YouTube live stream it was free and all you had to do was just get something, like your phone or your laptop, and just watch it.”

It even brought out new ideas that some of the actors would like to see applied to theater post-COVID.

“I think that was a good idea,” senior Adelyn Hall said. “I think it would be awesome if we could record our performances even in person and put them on YouTube so people who aren’t nearby or aren’t here can watch them when we hopefully eventually move back to in-person.”

About 100 people viewed the plays live. If you want to watch the play yourself, you can view them using this link.

The actors each had different takeaways regarding the whole situation.
“Probably rewarding,” Gordy said.

“Valuable,” Vega said.

“Experimental,” Stennis said.

“A unique challenge I only want to do once,” Stubbs said.