Second-year BA (Hons) Drama and Performance students have taken an upcoming performance off stage and turned it into a monologue series in response to the current lockdown.
The performance, The Race 2020, was to be part of an international festival facilitated through US-based Soujourn Theatre Company. It uses the theatre as a stage for civic debate and exchange to ask what we, as a society, want out of the government. As the original script was written for an American audience, our students adapted it for the UK, incorporating events like Brexit and the UK parliamentary election.
The monologue series explores the experiences of the students' characters in lockdown, and will be recorded and edited into a video for public performance. A virtual premiere will take place in June.
Rehearsals started before lockdown, and students were keen to continue developing the performance despite social distancing. Alongside co-teacher Angela El-Zeind, BA (Hons) Drama and Performance course leader Dr Erika Hughes planned the monologue concept to address how to adapt the Advanced Scene Study unit for online delivery to almost 30 students in class.
However, such method of teaching means more time spent delivering it. What would've been a weekly 4-hour rehearsal block is now weekly 1-to-1 masterclasses, alongside group improvisational acting sessions and coaching and pastoral care. Technology has also been challenging for a course that's intrinsically physical. Despite the limitations, though, students have been more than positive about the experience.
This difficult situation poses an interesting challenge that our students are exploring through their art. The lockdown has given them an added experience of pivoting and adapting, the way many theatre professionals are also having to do around the globe. Indeed, Michael Rohd, the author of The Race 2020, will be participating in the virtual performance alongside the students.
The University shifting to online classes has been difficult and tough for me as a student. However, I think the University has handled it in the best way possible. With Advanced Scene Study, it’s been a breath of fresh air as I was originally working as a stage manager, and changing to a director has been such an incredible experience. My knowledge on directing has broadened more than it would have in face-to-face lessons. Overall, I am very happy with how the university has handled online classes.