It’s been four months since Carleton students last attended classes on campus. Naturally, time onstage or in various theatres has been cut down to zero for the Sock’n’Buskin community. On the bright side, many theatre companies have adapted their shows to a virtual platform, allowing us to continue to watch performances and experience theatre in a new way. Theatre’s ability to transform into Facebook lives and Zoom calls from a form of art traditionally reliant on sets, costumes, and physicality made me wonder further how else theatre can be interpreted, and how it ties back into our current lives.
The arts are a saving grace when it comes to staying at home for days and weeks on end. Needless to say, there have been many creative adaptations to accommodate all of the changes that have happened in the last few months. Many different theatre companies have continued with their scheduled season by adapting to their shows to online mediums, while others have released previous performances of famous plays to allow for a wider audience to “attend” their performances. Some of these remote performances use props and costumes, while some opt for a more casual, read-through feel. I saw a production of Othello that set backgrounds for each scene to further immerse the audience with the time and location, and had every character in appropriate costumes and makeup, creating a performance as close to traditional theatre as possible in the conditions. Watching these productions is an incredibly important activity for anyone who wants to support theatre, but all of this newfound spare time allows us to catch up on our reading list or even write our own pieces. The critical thinking skills acquired from reading literature, whether it be poems or comic books or novels or plays, are an asset for anyone involved in theatre; understanding the message or purpose of a show and all of its symbols is an integral part of creating an immersive and interesting experience for an audience. On the same note, writing each of these elements out into a production requires the same depth of knowledge. Purposely carving out time for theatre and every element that goes into it helps to keep theatre a relevant part of our lives, even when we are not watching a show.
Supporting theatre directly is not the only way we can continue to contribute to our theatre company, though. Many students have had to up their hobby game and try some new things in their spare time. We all know friends who have taken up sewing or baking to pass the time and gain some important life skills, and others who rekindled old passions such as finally learning an instrument, writing like they’re running out of time, or plowing through the piles of unread books on their shelves. Now, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with theatre? Whether we notice it or not, theatre has a place in our lives, even when we find ourselves away from the stage. These little things can have an impact on the way we perform theatre and the ideas we have for it. By honing certain skills that have been popular throughout quarantine, we can apply our newly found hobbies to theatre and its production. If someone is mending their sweater because it has a hole, they may become a potential costume designer as they continue to sew and alter their clothing. If someone is making crafts from the scraps they have around their house, they are proving to be resourceful and handy enough to become the props master. If someone is organizing their room, cleaning their house, or painting their basement, they have acquired the skills needed to build a set. By honing our skills, no matter how far away from production they seem to be, we bring more knowledge to the creation of theatre.
Though we may not be able to attend live shows, there is still theatre all around, and our day-to-day activities can impact our theatre experience. Being away from the stage in this time doesn’t mean theatre has to be put on hold. Continuously consuming shows is the most obvious way we can continue to support theatre, but there are so may other ways we can work towards creating the best shows we can; things not directly related to theatre still hold value in its production and in our abilities to adapt to creating this form of art. This is theatre’s place away from the stage, and in our every day lives.