Mai Moua Thao ’22 (St. Paul) records a Perspectives performance by Kanon Nakajima ’23 (Chiba Chiba, Japan).

The opening night of Perspectives in November was unlike any other in the Theater and Dance Department’s history. Audience members didn’t sit in the theater, waiting for the curtain to rise. Instead, they sat in front of their computer screens, waiting for the livestream to begin.

When the pandemic began, co-directors Bob Rosen and Darrius Strong had no idea what the fall show would look like. “Like everybody else, we tried to guess what was going to happen,” Rosen explains. “And then we can either say, ‘Too bad we can’t create anything because this isn’t how we work’—or ‘What do we have, and how do we create?’”

The department decided to combine the theater and dance shows, and as the pandemic evolved, ultimately landed on the structure of a performance composed of solo pieces, all rehearsed on Zoom and performed on livestream.

Though it arose out of necessity, the format is a perfect distillation of the new realities of the pandemic, and the title of the show. The performers’ perspectives are not only the pieces they devised, but literally situated within their own universes, which for many have shrunk to the size of their homes.

Even though the performers are isolated, their experiences are anything but. Early in the process, cast members reflected on their pieces in writing. When assistant choreographer Mai Moua Thao ’22 (St. Paul) read through their words, she immediately noticed the connections. Unity emerged at the very beginning, she says, and it became explicit in the show. Though most of the cast members perform in isolation, there’s a moment where the camera moves from one performer in one space of the theater building to the next. “It’s different spaces officially, but we literally see the connection between them,” stage manager Asher de Forest ’21 (Kirkland, Wash.) explains.

Indeed, the development of Perspectives has ultimately been a story of connection, despite the pandemic-related constraints. Holiday O’Bryan ’24 (Reno, Nev.) reflects that the production created a chance to connect with her classmates outside of class. “It’s been such a special experience to be making something with other people every day,” she says. Thao echoes this sentiment: “The sense of community has kept me grounded.”

“It’s difficult to do theater this way, and of course I hope for all the reasons that we can go back to doing theater in person again,” de Forest says. “But given everything, it’s been really cool to see people being totally creative and willing to make something together in this new way.”

By Rachel Rostad ’15

January 25 2021

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