Covid-19 has put a full stop to the arts industry. Actors, musicians, technicians, arts administrators, and so many other people are in a state of limbo. Hope College is among the lucky few places that have implemented safety protocols that allow student and faculty artists to come together in these trying times to put on something magical. One of these spectacles will be the Theatre Department’s outdoor and socially-distant production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

Sebastian (Lili Fraser-Shade), left, and Viola (Emi Herman), right

I think it is a common misconception that theatre just happens. One day a group of actors show up to a performance and magically know all their lines and movements. A silver lining to the new Covid-19 restrictions is that we can showcase our work from start to finish to the Hope College community. This means students and faculty passing the entrance of the DeWitt Center have witnessed every stumble and every triumph in the rehearsal process. Yet another silver lining is that this play will be live-streamed! Not only can people watch it safely from their homes, but we can reach an even greater audience than ever before. 

As an actor in this production, it has been a wonderful rollercoaster to get to this point. I started my journey to become Viola last semester under the direction of Johamy Morales and was over the moon about being able to continue into this semester. I was skeptical at first about acting with the restrictions of being outdoors and with masks on, but I soon remembered that both of those are traditions of theatre. I also realized that connection can still happen at a six-foot radius, and being closer to a scene partner now makes me feel like I must kiss or fight the person. What may have seemed like disadvantages have also turned into helpful tools because we had our set on day one and the audience not being able to see our facial expressions makes us actors use our physicality in ways we never have before. 

From left to right: Clown (Madison Meeron), Antonio (Abby Doonan), Olivia (Sofia Muñoz), Malvolio (Riley Wilson), and Orsino (Mackenzie Hester)

However, working outside the DeWitt entrance is definitely more nerve-wracking than any other rehearsal process I’ve been a part of. I feel like I must be performing through every rehearsal as if it were the final product. My peers can see me crash and burn from 5 to 8 pm four days a week with a special matinee on the weekends. Of course, these higher stakes in real life only add to the process because Shakespeare only wrote his characters in high-stakes situations. The public rehearsals have also forced me to trust my choices as an actor more than ever. I want to turn the heads of the people walking to their dorms. If they don’t, am I doing my job? Will I be able to keep our future audience engaged? 

I am so thankful that we are able to continue Twelfth Night in person and that Hope College has been safe during this unprecedented situation. Working on a Shakespeare play is a beast, and I am so fortunate to get the opportunity to play Viola and tackle this beautiful play in a way that very few people get to experience. 

For more information about viewing Twelfth Night in person or online, click here.

Photo credits: Leslie Olivarez

In the top featured photo: From left to right: Sir Andrew (Lisbeth Franzon), Antonio (Abby Doonan), Fabian (Emily Mann), First Officer (Jack Slevin), Viola (Emi Herman)

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