The show must go on: Theatre groups reimagine shows for virtual stage


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Students perform in the 76th Annual Dolphin Show, “Ragtime.” The Dolphin Show and other theatre groups are still planning shows for the 2020-21 academic year, even if they’re forced to perform remotely.

Evan Robinson-Johnson, Reporter

Under normal circumstances, theatre is one of the most vibrant ways to spend your evenings at Northwestern. Whether you’re part of a production or watching from the audience, there’s a show to be engaged with almost every week.

But these aren’t normal circumstances and things will be different this fall. The usual venues — Shanley Auditorium, the Louis Room, Cahn Auditorium — will remain eerily vacant. Nearly all in-person interaction will have to be reimagined. Instead, shows will likely take place virtually as live events or pre-recorded readings, like podcasts with SFX.

Luckily, the theatre community at NU is incredibly resilient and its leaders and members are already planning an exciting year. Here’s what three of the largest student theatre organizations have in store.

The Northwestern Student Theatre Coalition, better known as StuCo, manages nine theatre boards and two dance groups that span a variety of genres. While the organization recently voted to disallow all in-person activities for the fall, student leaders are still planning ways to create meaningful community. Quarantine traditions like Netflix nights and Instagram competitions (see @thisweekinstudentquarantine) are set to continue. On the performance side, the collective’s leaders said they’re focusing on process over product.

Next up is The Waa-Mu Show, which produces the largest student-written musical in the country. Each year the show involves a unique process in which students pitch, write and orchestrate an entirely new musical from scratch. The only faculty involved are a panel of advisors and a hired director. Last year they wrote “State of the Art,” and when things moved online, the cast performed the show live over Zoom. This year, the team is planning its 90th show. Even if the show has to be performed online again, Waa-Mu’s process is an experience worth trying. You can join the show’s team (of more than 100 students!) at any point during its creation, or you can join Waa-2, the show’s workshop cast made up entirely of first-year students.

The Dolphin Show, which typically produces one of the largest student-run musicals in the country, is taking its cue from StuCo, but still hopes for an in-person performance. This year’s show is “Pippin,” and the show’s producers are confident it will happen, even if it has to be performed outside — an interesting transition for a theatre group that originally performed in a swimming pool (hence the Dolphin name). In addition to the mainstage musical, the Dolphin family is also starting a podcast called “Don’t Flip Out,” featuring interviews with alumni on topical issues.

Every group that talked to The Daily emphasized perseverance and determination. Their commitment to the theatre community and to new innovations is helping to create new opportunities in a year otherwise filled with cancellations.

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