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Local theatre program turns performance into a live radio show

Little Women.PNG
Posted at 2:18 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 16:59:39-05

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - It's been a while since actors and actresses have physically interacted on stage together.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced theater programs, like Tidewater Community College's program in Chesapeake, to rethink traditional intimate performances.

"I think the biggest challenge right now is figuring out how to do this safely, how to keep everybody in the cast and crew safe but still be able to really communicate what we're trying to communicate in the show," said April Pierce-Willetts, the director of "Little Women."

Making her debut as director, Pierce-Willetts said that TCC's cast and crew will be performing "Little Women" live in the style of a radio show.

"We are live streaming it as though it is 1951 and this is a radio drama from 1951," she said. "[It's different than what we've done before, but] we're happy to just be able to be doing theater and, you know, be creating art."

Dorothy Shytles, who will be playing Beth, said putting on a radio drama is a new experience.

"We're putting more emphasis on the things we're saying and more expression into our voice versus our physical actions, which is definitely tough," Shyltes said.

Up until this point, they have been rehearsing on Zoom. Shytles said frozen videos and lag time have posed some challenges considering they are used to fluidly practicing in person.

However, this week they were able to practice in person. Cast and crew rehearsed on stage, but they were required to be socially distant from one another and each had their own microphone.

In some cases, they have been required to wear masks when in close proximity with one another. It will be this way during the actual show, too, and there won't be a physical audience.

Those acting will be socially distant on stage while viewers tune in online.

"Artists are always trying to figure out how to make their art more accessible and how to include more people in their range, and I think this is a really unique way," said Pierce-Willetts. "We are totally missing the live audience, of course, because every actor wants to act to real people to hear that back-and-forth, but we're happy to just be able to be doing theater."

Shytles said this experience has helped her grow as an actress and develop a new way to connect with the audience. "It's been such a blessing knowing that people are having a good time with this and are enjoying that entertainment even though we can't see each other in person."

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She said she is looking forward to one thing.

"I cannot wait for the first time I get to act in front of a live audience again and get to feel that applause and to feel the laughter because I think it will even be better and people will have even more appreciation for the arts because how long it’s been withheld in that way."

Those interesting in watching and/or listening can tune into TCC Theater Livestreams on Facebook at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, December 11.