Welcome to the 2020-21 Season!
I’ve been writing season descriptions for going on twenty-five years now, and while no two seasons have ever been the same, this season is unique. As theatre artists in an educational environment, we are in truly unprecedented territory.
Theatre is, by definition, a live event. That said, the theatre world at large is engaged in a great deal of experimentation about what a "live" experience can look like for both performers and for audiences. Some of this experimentation pre-exists the pandemic—for example the practice of live-steaming or HD taping of live productions from professional theatre companies (e.g., England’s National Theatre) has been around for many years now and has proven to be very successful with audiences around the world. And of course since the health crisis began shutting down live theatre this past March, many professional theatres have switched to online delivery—some of it live (via platforms like Zoom) and some of it taped and then streamed.
In order to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff, we will offer our two Fall 2020 productions (Sara Kane's Crave and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar) as online theatrical learning experiences for the student company members (actors, dramaturgs, stage managers, designers, technicians, assistant directors). Our faculty directors, designers, stage manager, technicians and acting coaches have spent the last six months researching methods for rehearsing the shows online and producing them virtually, with exciting results.
We start off with Sarah Kane’s Crave. Before her untimely death in 1999, Kane was one of the leading figures in the British ‘In-Yer-Face’ theatre movement, a style of writing and acting that spurns realism in favor of expressionistic and highly stylized theatrical language and stage action. Crave will be produced virtually as an in-class project (THEA 2402: Crave) with direction and class leadership by Associate Professor of Directing Robin Witt.
Our second Fall production, The Corona Caesar, is a radical and innovative approach to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the bard’s electrifying story of ambition, conspiracy and its tragic aftermath. In a creative response to the distancing protocols currently in place, our production will be an audio podcast constructed entirely online and publicly released beginning November 24, 2020. Actors will rehearse and record from home--with real-time Zoom direction/acting coaching from faculty director and Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare Andrew Hartley and faculty stage voice coach and Assistant Professor of Acting/Stage Voice Chris Berry. All members of The Corona Caesar company will participate in creating a show which embraces the restrictions of the present to make an old play fresh, compelling and urgent.
In February we will stage a concert version of See Rock City and Other Destinations, a contemporary musical about connections missed and made at tourist destinations across America (including our own North Carolina). See Rock City marks the UNC Charlotte directing debut of Laura Waringer, Assistant Professor of Directing and Co-Coordinator of the Musical Theatre Certificate program. We hope to be back on the Belk Theatre stage in front of a live audience, but if we can’t, the show will still go on (via live streaming)!
And, finally, our year ends in April with an out-door production of Migrant X, a new work by guest playwright Georgina Escobar and Associate Professor of Physical Theatre Carlos Cruz. We commissioned Migrant X in order to explore important questions about the current Latinx immigration crisis, both locally and globally. Using an array of physical theatre styles and techniques (cirque, aerial, commedia), this world premiere will put audiences, sometimes literally, into the heart and soul of the migrant experience.
Lots of change in the air this year. But it’s important to point out here what has not changed: Once again, our skilled faculty directors, designers, dramaturgs, stage technicians and performers will be working together with our talented students to create a wide range of exciting, vital, diverse and socially responsible theater produced in our wonderful theatrical spaces here in the Arts Quad and in Robinson Hall.
The Department of Theatre remains committed to offering our students and members of the surrounding community thought-provoking and entertaining approaches to a wide range of theatrical performance, from the classics to contemporary interdisciplinary work. We encourage all of you to explore and engage with our performances and special events and opportunities, including post-show discussions, master classes, workshop opportunities, guest lectures, theatre-going excursions, internships, and production-related apprenticeships.
I always sign off these season greetings with a “See you at the theatre!” This year some of our time together may be virtual rather than literally in-person. But I promise that all of our time together will be filled with the energy, talent, and enthusiasm of our students, the expertise and deep commitment of our faculty, and the age-old and ever-forward wisdom of the theatre arts.