Scapin and Sewanee theatre in the age of coronavirus

By Caroline Hoskins
Contributing Writer

Every year, the Sewanee community waits in anticipation for the theatre department’s fall play. Due to the coronavirus, there was a question as to whether or not a play would take place this year. Thanks to the hard work of director Pete Smith, Sewanee can expect to enjoy theatre this fall. 

As to why he fought so hard for live theatre to take place this fall, Smith spoke to the importance of live entertainment, especially in times like these: “A lot of people want to see their friends in these plays, and especially now when there’s nothing else to do,” he said. “You know, ‘I want to go to the play because it’s better than sitting in my room watch television or something else.’”

This year’s play is Scapin, a comedy by Moliere involving young love, disapproving parents, and scheming servants. Smith explained that he chose this play not only for its humor, but also because it is a relatively short play. Running a little over an hour, he spoke to how this aids in mask wearing, saying: “One of the reasons I picked this play, originally, is it’s funny and ‘B’ you can do a lot of movement with it. But now, looking at it I’m so glad I picked it because it’s not a long play. And, when we were reading through the other night it took about an hour to read it which is good because I think that that’s the length of time that most people feel comfortable wearing a mask. So hopefully no one will pass out during the play.” 

There are other ways in which COVID guidelines are being incorporated into the fabric of the play. Greer King (C’21), the costume designer, is working to incorporate masks into the costumes of the characters. Due to the streetwear theme King has chosen for the production, masks will fit easily into the style. King stated that her style inspirations for the costumes are that of Versace, Gucci, and Valentino. Overall, King is working to style the characters to represent modern opulence while incorporating masking.

Another obstacle to overcome is that of social distancing on stage. Most plays involve an element of physical interaction between actors, making distancing a difficulty in creating live theatre. Smith explained that in order to work around social distancing, he is creating more individual movement in the characters to replace physical touch.  

Smith explained, “What I’m going to try to do is I’m going to put so much movement in this play that the physical relationships will appear.” 

Despite distancing and masking, the mood of Monday’s rehearsal was light and entertaining. This is a testament not only to  Smith’s directing, but also to the skill and dedication of the actors in the play. Even in just a rehearsal, the excitement of live theatre was palpable. Once fully formed, Sewanee’s production of Scapin will be a must of campus entertainment. 

The play itself will run from Oct. 14-17. Admission is by reservation only. You can make a reservation through the app Eventbrite. Emails will be sent to students at the time reservations start. Seats are first come first served. Each performance is relegated to 35 audience members, and it is predicted that seats will go fast.

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