When Safe Theatre is Hard to Find, Why Not Make Your Own?

Theatre in a Post-COVID World

You can’t turn on the news or look at social media without being reminded we are living through a global pandemic. With so many concerns for safety, the UVU theatre department faculty came together over the summer and discussed how to proceed with this year’s theatrical season. Everyone had the same goal, to create theatre safely. But how do you do that? How do you create something that has traditionally required a live audience?

Each show had its own answer to that question. For our director, Laurie, the answer was pushing the show scheduled to a future year when it can be presented in its entirety. But in its place, she suggested devising our very own show to rehearse and present entirely online.

What is devising?

Devised theatre has many definitions depending on who you talk to. However, it simply boils down to collectively created theatre. Devising methods and practices vary almost as widely as the definitions but they all come down to the idea that a group of theatre artists come together and create an entire show with nothing more than an idea, a theme, or a couple of lines of dialogue.

For Laurie, devising meant pulling together a group of actors to collectively create four separate scenes and several monologues all surrounding the same topic.

Our devising technique(s) and process

For our first rehearsal, we came together virtually and talked about what themes are really important to each of us right now in our lives. Several actors suggested isolation as a theme and everyone agreed that a universal experience through the last few months has definitely been isolation. With a theme in hand, actors were divided into four groups of three to create a scene. Laurie guided each group through character questionnaires and improvised scenes to explore the ideas surrounding isolation.

Once the group had found a scene or scenario they wanted to explore further, the designated writer for each group took the improvisations and began creating scripts. At this point, rehearsals became a time to try to lock in characters, scenarios, and dialogue. Sometimes that meant spending more time doing improv work while other times, it meant simply reading the script and discussing specific moments as a group.

After only a few short weeks, scripts were completed and focus in rehearsal turned to fine tuning the performance of each script. One of the greatest challenges we faced was finding ways to communicate certain moments or situations while rehearsing, and eventually performing, virtually. However, through the use of direction, props, and other tools available to us, each scene is clear as can be.

But don’t take my word for it, see the final filmed Zoom performance and see if there is a scene or monologue that you can relate to.