Screening In: Theatre Department Starts Hybrid-Rehearsals Amidst Cast Quarantines


NWU theatre students Carl Schack, Carter Fangmeyer, Kate Stacy, Travis Roh, and Ryan Furlong are accompanied virtually by cast member Erin Viets via Zoom.

Although incredibly rewarding, most actors would consider their job in the performing arts a time-consuming, massive undertaking. More than that, people in theatre are familiar with the need to adapt to any given circumstance– and the Nebraska Wesleyan Theatre Company is, most unfortunately, not exempt from that.

Recently, many students on campus were required to quarantine due to unrelated circumstances– many of these students currently involved in several theatre productions. Shows such Stupid F##king Bird, being directed by Shannon Chinn (Junior, Theatre Arts B.F.A.), were only just beginning the rehearsal process. Chinn, who previously had a cast of seven, was now being temporarily wiped down to three. Guidelines and protocols prohibited the other four cast members from being able to attend in-person rehearsals.

So what did this production team do in the meantime?

“When there were a lot of people missing from rehearsal,” explains Chinn, “we really had to focus on doing individual work over zoom… [like] specific character moments. This show, specifically, has a lot of monologues that need a lot of individual attention. So it was actually good to have time to devote to that, especially if that’s all we could do at that point.”

But soon after she gained a bit more of the cast, Chinn knew that a new plan was needed, moving forward.

“We did need to start blocking (staging) scenes again. That was something that I was very stressed to do, because I couldn’t imagine how we would go about doing that, with people not here in real life.”

With ideas and help from the NWU Theatre faculty, Chinn was able to move into a more hybrid-rehearsal format– where some of the cast remained in-person, and some were present through Zoom. But how exactly did this work?

“Emma Jorgenson (Junior, Theatre Arts Education and English B.A.), [the] stage manager, sort of ‘filled in’ for the people and actually went through their blocking (staging) as if they were the [character].”

In addition to that, Chinn had the quarantined cast-members read their lines over Zoom.

“That way, [the actor] could still be engaged and active in the scene. But obviously, we need a body there, so the in-person actors knew what that character was doing and where they would be.”

Jorgenson added some of her perspective, saying “It was a lot at once… I was trying to ‘play the actor’, ‘move them’ where they needed to go, and also give a little feedback for the people playing off of me. Writing [staging] down, remembering left and right, and just a whole bunch of things at the same time.”

And when the scene required more than one character who was currently in quarantine?

“We had other people along the way who could help out,” explains Chinn. “We also filmed some of the [larger] bits that would [otherwise] be too hard to do.”

With all of the cast now back in-person, and the show finally being able to come together, Chinn is now able to reflect back on her, quite unexpected, experience.

“Overall, it taught me that nothing is impossible… If you have help from others, and a cast that’s willing to go through all the struggles, and who accept that it’s how it needs to be at that moment, you can get through anything.”

These past weeks, Chinn, Jorgenson, the cast of Stupid F##king Bird, and the entirety of the theatre department at NWU have shown a resilience not uncommon in the arts, but is occasionally overlooked. Passion and determination are attributes that the program has strived to maintain, and this experience only served to remind those affected that conflict does not squash creativity, but rather, innovates it.

Be sure to check out Stupid F##king Bird, opening Thursday, April 8th for the general public. Reserve your tickets online, or through the box office. This show contains adult language and themes, and is intended for mature audiences.

Location: Miller Lab Theater

Performance dates:
Thursday, April 8th, 2021 – 7:30pm
Friday, April 9th, 2021 – 7:30pm
Saturday, April 10th, 2021 – 7:30pm
Sunday, April 11th, 2021 – 7:30pm