When students were suddenly sent home last semester to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the theater department was forced to postpone performances to the fall semester. One of these shows was “Lungs,” a two-person play directed by Scott Baron.
“It’s a very unique show in its subject matter,” Baron said, “It speaks to the events right now. It speaks to us right now. It speaks to where we’re at right now. It’s just a very poignant piece for the moment.”
Rachel Bass, an actress in the show, said acting during a pandemic presents unique challenges.
“It’s a hard show. Just the emotional arc that the characters go through, and also just the style that it’s written in is so similar to how people speak,” she said. “You have to create intimacy without physical closeness.”
Jake Lane, an actor in the show, agreed.
“It’s also really difficult in finding those moments that are more intense and still being away from each other,” he said.
One of the techniques the theater department has relied on in the age of coronavirus is using a grid to help distance actors.
“The lines on the floor are spaced so each circle is three feet, so as long as we’re always two circles away from each other or on the same circle, but a certain amount of spokes away from each other, we’re always six feet apart,” Bass said .
The circular grid was an intentional artistic decision from Baron to help direct the actor’s movements during the play.
“It’s so much easier to build up momentum when you’re on a circle than when you’re on a straight line,” Baron explained. “Is [the character] avoiding a question that he’s asking? Well, then let’s block it so that she’s chasing him across the circles.”
While working on a show in a socially distant environment is different for the actors, Emily Hankinson, the stage manager, finds her role has remained relatively the same.
“A lot of my responsibilities are things that can and usually are done on my own computer. I’m emailing and scheduling and all these things I do on Google Docs, so I don’t actually have to interact that much. It doesn’t feel that different to me,” Hankinson said.
However, a new obligation was added to Hankinson’s responsibilities as stage manager.
“I have to take everyone’s temperature, including my own, to make sure that everyone has a normal temperature,” Hankinson said. “In this scenario, if one of them has too low or too high of a temperature, I’m supposed to kick them out.”
Baron said the actors have gotten creative with the pandemic-era restrictions.
“I think this play lends itself well to social distancing in a way in that it’s not how it was originally created and intended for, but it’s not that hard to make the jump,” Baron said confidently. “I think we’ll do an excellent job of creating something new.”