COVID-19 has made socialization go entirely online thanks to our constant usage of technology. In-class discussions have moved to chat rooms. Instead of watching a theater production amid a crowd, many are experiencing performances behind a screen. This trend has continued with Southern Miss, as the School of Performing and Visual Arts gets used to new production styles amid a pandemic.
In an interview with Dr. David Coley, assistant professor and producer in the Theater Department, he spoke about how the theater program is dealing with the pandemic. While theater production is difficult to portray virtually, the department itself is hoping to showcase all of the talent within the Southern Miss community through their shows.
This is Coley’s first semester of teaching and working with Southern Miss’ theater program. He expressed his excitement to teach theater history while managing the productions. Though Coley wasn’t prepared for this hectic semester, he believes that the faculty and students will excel regardless.
Productions are still being held by the theatre program, but all of them will be online only. This shift in the environment will impact the audience as well as the actors. Actors will have to perform in the walls of their homes or their environment without audience feedback. Producers will then mashup all the videos into one big performance and play them on a livestream.
These brief changes allow the actors and actresses to create their own stage, using any atmosphere or setting of their choosing. The students will be using their imagination to give the audience a real theatrical experience. This not only allows the students to develop an appreciation for in-person theater, but for the audience as well.
“Actors won’t be limited to one stage,” Coley said.
The theater program still has a sense of normality as they perform online. The first production that will be held online is Lauren Gunderson’s “The Revolutionists”. There will be a handful of “performances” of the show, lasting from Sept. 24 through 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 27 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on the program’s website.
Also according to the Southern Miss Art Department’s website, art students are similarly making the most out of creating amid the pandemic. While many artists may struggle to virtually showcase their artwork, the department itself is making the most of it. As they proudly say on their website, they’re “[turning] restrictions in our environment into opportunities for art and expression.”
On Aug. 29, 2020, The Hub Dance Collective live streamed a special concert that shared solutions for collaborations on and offstage. Those who missed the show can attend a second showing during the Art & Design Faculty Show on Sept. 10. The Southern Miss Art Department once again urges those interested in events to view their website for more information.
The Southern Miss Art and Theater program continues to set examples of how students and faculty are striving throughout the pandemic. Both programs are using their luxury of having the technology to still communicate with their audience in meaningful ways. Through multiple productions and informative opportunities, audiences can still gather virtually to view all that the department has to offer. To learn more about all of the events going on with the Performing Arts, please visit https://www.usm.edu/performing-visual-arts/performances-exhibitions.