Meet the people who keep the show going within the Theatre Department
by morgan miles, staff writer
With COVID-19 putting a halt to live audience productions, Xavier’s theatre program
is finding a way to keep the show going.
The livestream performances still require heavy loads of technical work for each project. A staff of eight employees are responsible for managing use of theatre spaces and technical support.
Steven Stapleton is a fourth-year technical theatre major and has worked as an employee of the program’s scene shop since his freshman year. Stapleton recounts pre-COVID-19 theatre closing as less time-consuming and more straightforward.
Adjusting to the new situation, however, has presented different challenges.
“Now with COVID-19 we really stress the importance of safety in the theatre,” he explained. “Every night when we close, the staffer for the evening has to disinfect all door handles and every chair in the theatre.”
As a supervisor, Stapleton is used to occasionally working from home. When COVID-19 hit, Stapleton began contributing remotely more often to the scene shop by making plans and arranging meetings.
Stapleton noted, however, that many things are remaining consistent despite the year’s abnormalities.
“We never had a standard workday in the shop,” Stapleton said. “You come in and are assigned something for the day, then the next day it changes. I think the only major change we went through was adapting what those tasks were.”
The past year has presented challenges that employees like Stapleton have had to creatively overcome. Staff under the theatre program are well trained to adapt to any circumstance and find resources to do so. “We cannot have 400 people in a room crowded next to one another. That does not mean we cannot do theatre; it just will not be the same,” Stapleton adds. A testament to the adaptability of the program.
Highlighting the positive, Stapleton explained that since the live production shut down, he has become more acquainted with live-streaming. He sees this as a learning opportunity beneficial to his future as live streamed performances become popular amongst the population due to COVID-19.
Despite challenges proposed by the pandemic, the theatre will continue with the typical 8 shows. Rather than in an entire year, the eight shows will be fit into one semester. Stapleton explained the unique situation.
“We as artists have been out of work, so the theatre program’s goal this semester was to do as much as possible… while being as safe as possible,” added Stapleton.
Four shows will be live in the theatre as well as streamed. Two are live and the audience – even those performing – will be interacting remotely. The last two shows are prerecorded and to be premiered at set times.
All employees are a major foundational support for the productions to succeed. “I recently made an app to manage all of our inventory so that all the items are entered in a similar manner and are easier to review. Of all my years here, we have taken smaller inventories of a specific set of items but never everything we have entirely,” Stapleton admits.
Experimenting with different, unfamiliar methods and stepping into risky territory is a primary goal of the theatre program, even during frightening times. COVID-19 has not stopped employees like Stapleton from going through with projects albeit not in the traditional ways they are used to.
Photo caption: Xavier’s theatre program continues to run despite the pandemic putting a halt to traditional live audience productions.