COVID can't stop COS theater: 'Shakespeare's Greatest Hits' is on Zoom
The College of the Siskiyous Theatre Department has found a creative way to perform their fall play during the age of COVID-19. They will be using a form of communication that has become a popular one as of late – Zoom.
"Shakespeare's Greatest Hits," directed by new COS adjunct theatre instructor Kitty Keim will feature scenes from "King Lear," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Henry IV," "Twelfth Night," "As You Like It," "Measure for Measure," "Love's Labour's Lost," and "Othello."
Performances will be broadcast live for free via Zoom and are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings, Nov. 20 and 21 starting at 7 p.m. They will also have two performances for schools as well.
For more information and to book virtual seats, contact the COS Theatre Department by sending an email to email@example.com.
“It’s certainly been a different kind of experience in how to create this show,” Keim said. “It’s been kind of experimental in how we have all worked together in this different environment to perform this show.”
Riley Witherell is an actor in the play and she helped compose the musical accompaniment. Riley will be playing play Goneril in "King Lear," Jaquenetta in "Love’s Labour's Lost" Othello and Emilia in "Othello," and Olivia in "Twelfth Night."
“The experience of preparing a play through Zoom has been crazy,” Witherell said.
Challenges have included tech issues, such as low-quality mics, bad internet, and computers that can’t fully run Zoom. Also, Riley said, having the motivation and a connection to the other actors has been a challenge.
“Zoom means you really have to be good at staying in character, whether it’s technical difficulties or just have a long time before your next line,” Riley said. ”It has been a lot more work, but I think this is an amazing opportunity for innovation and outreach.”
This production will be staged with as many of the original practices Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have used as Zoom can accommodate: doubling of parts, strong adherence to the text, and a fast pace, Keim said. It has also been cast with the best modern practice, which is gender and race blind casting, she said.
Keim said the actors have been refreshing separately on Zoom and will be performing from their homes or dorm rooms. Two actors are roommates and have been rehearsing and will be acting together in the same space.
Kelim said the rehearsal time has been invaluable and has given her and the cast time to be creative and experiment with how to best use Zoom to present a play. This includes ways to try to gain the audience focus using framing and how to be creative using props such as chairs. She said they will use green screen backgrounds during the play.
Kelim said she has worked with her actors to help them understand each line of dialogue they speak and understand the language and not to be intimidated by it.
“The actors are really committed to achieving this,” she said.
Her goal is to make these timeless works by the Bard understandable and relatable to the audience.
“My understanding of Shakespeare was pretty low before this,” Riley said. “I was in 'Much Ado About Nothing' in middle school but that's about it."
Riley said it has also been an amazing experience to create the composition for the play’s soundtrack, Originally, it was a composition Witherell wrote for a music composition class at COS. COS music instructor David Blink liked what they did and asked if they could use it in the play. Witherell also created sheet music for specific parts in the play.
“I never expected it to be the base for the whole soundtrack,” Riley said. “It was definitely overwhelming at first and I was very underprepared, but David and everyone in Concert Band has been very patient and helpful throughout the process. It’s truly incredible to hear something I wrote be changed and molded to what is needed in the show."
A theatre major, Riley said being part of this show has been special. “I wanted to be in this production because I knew that, even in normal times, I would feel very lost without a show,” Witherell said. “Theatre is truly one of the few things that keep me alive. Plus, I wanted to check out our new director (she’s cool, btw). I knew it was going to be a challenge, and it certainly has been. I know it will all be worth it. “
During isolating times like this due to COVID-19, Riley said it’s been great the way theatre has connected the cast and crew, as they hope to connect online with audiences.
“The arts are deemed non-essential, but when given almost infinite time with nothing to do, people watch TV and listen to music,” Riley said. “Performing arts allows for connection to combat the loneliness a lot of us feel anyway, but even more so during quarantine. Theatre has a way of whisking people off into a world where they don’t have any problems, and it’s (almost) always a happy ending.”
Actors in the play are: