The department of theatre presented “Home and Belonging,” a virtual journey through the human existence, written in collaboration with students, staff, faculty and alumni.
The Zoom performance took place Oct. 15-17 with tickets available to students and general admission.
Before the opening on Oct. 15, 200 people were registered to attend the performance.
Laura Smiley directed the performance in addition to assistant director Malic Maat, alumni directors Ciera Spencer, Isha Rao and Kevin Moore, and student directors Naomi Bates, Rachael Holfelder and Kiersten Hope.
Hope is a senior theatre arts management major and wrote the piece “The Waiting Room,” within the performance. She said that the department of theatre got a jumpstart on virtual performing and directing in March, but nobody knew what it would be like to direct and perform an entire show.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Hope said. “We are so used to connecting with each other and taking emotions from each other so close together it has been an adjustment working into how do you direct someone via screen, how do you interact with someone via screen?”
Hope said that “Home and Belonging” acted as a test run, but allowed the actors, directors and writers to be flexible and open with communication while working under pressure with adaptability.
The show itself encompasses a series of different scenes and themes of what society has been going through during the pandemic and quarantine, such as isolation.
The performance consists of live scenes within Zoom as well as recorded scenes that are scripted with editing and music.
“All of it unites to come together to tell an interesting story about human experience in a time that is unlike any we have experiences in our lifetimes or our parents did,” Hope said.
A lot of the participants in the show were first semester freshman, and Hope said that the department is very proud of their ability to adapt and collaborate quickly.
“For me, it was getting to know the incoming freshman, however brief, and see what their talents are and how they would shape the program,” Hope said.
After years at Slippery Rock, Hope was worried that she would be graduating without a final theatre performance, but was overjoyed when she got the opportunity to student direct and participate in “Home and Belonging.”
“Creating art in really taxing circumstances, it is one of the most important things you can do,” Hope said. “I think that true artists respond to stress and stressors using artistic methods. It’s a coping mechanism, it’s a way of expression, and the fact that we could all come together to do this and produce it has been really rewording to me.”
The Department of Theatre is big on collaboration, within their department and with other departments. Hope said that this allowed her to learn the importance or working together and combining various artistic skills.
“The directors, faculty and other students are relentlessly perseverant and committed to making great art, art that means something, art that tells a story,” Hope said. “That collaboration to me is important.”
With collaboration in mind, Hope hopes that those who attended the performance felt a connection with somebody, and that they felt represented in a way.
“One of the hardest times for me during COVID-19 and quarantine has been that I felt really alone,” Hope said. “Everyone is going through it and you don’t want to complain. I want people to walk away and go ‘okay, other people are feeling what I am feeling, we are connected in that way’. I want them to walk away with a bit of an understanding of someone’s experience that is not their own.”
Hope said that the department is not hiding the fact that they are virtual, but they are playing into the Zoom theater aspect.
“We are doing a piece within a Zoom box and I celebrate that,” Hope said. “I celebrate adapting to the times in which you live.”
In these times, Hope said that those in creative fields need to be more forgiving and take into consideration the amount of strain they are under.
“If you are finding you are in a block and you can’t produce things the way you were, things aren’t the way they were, be forgiving of yourself,” Hope said.
In her final semester, Hope is happy to have joined the department and not let theatre go quietly.