Faculty and alumni keep theatre performances alive

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Child Development Professor Chantal Lamourelle performs in the spring production of “Anna in the Tropics”

When “Anna in the Tropics” premiered on April 22, the audience witnessed a concoction of murder, adultery, and Russian literature. What they didn’t see, behind the scenes, was all of the careful preparation that went into this production. 

“There’s almost a fear to share your show with the audience,” said Adjunct Theatre Professor William Mittler. “We’re enjoying rehearsal, we’re committed, we’re discovering our characters.” 

Before rehearsals or character discovery, however, comes the first step in putting on a show— casting. Unfortunately, due to a school wide decrease in enrollment ever since the pandemic, casting options are scarce. 

“The process has changed,” Mittler explained, “we don’t have the same selection to choose from.” 

Nayla Cruz, Cristina Villagomez, Professor Chantal Lamourelle performing in “Anna in the Tropics”. Photo by Emma McMillen

At the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester, enrollment for Theatre Arts was over 300 students. By Spring 2021, their numbers had been diminished to around 180 students. 

They’ve rebuilt since then, currently with 341 students, but the majority of these are high schoolers in the dual enrollment program. Since this program is separate from the courses college students are in, the department is still having issues operating at the same level they had been in the past. 

Theatre Department Chair, Amberly Chamberlain, described the effects of the coronavirus on their program as tragic. She said, “We had, like, three people show up for auditions. It was very sad and we did not want to have to cancel the show, so we reached out to alumni and then even some friends.” 

In order to continue producing live shows like “Anna in the Tropics,” it’s been necessary for them to cast outside of currently enrolled students. Luckily, they were able to find an ensemble of alumni and even faculty as dedicated to the theater as they are. 

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After the cast is assembled, they have to participate in an intimacy training to ensure everyone feels physically comfortable with one another. 

“It’s hard to just allow someone to grab you here or pull you there,” said Actress and Alumni Cristina Villagomez. “You have to build those connections first before you’re comfortable doing things like that.” 

Cristina Villagomez smoking a celebratory prop cigar. Photo by Emma McMillen

As they begin the rehearsal process, performers are required to follow similar safety precautions as student athletes such as getting tested regularly. Mittler, the director, frequently uttered “masks on off stage, masks off on stage” during these practice runs. 

The last run-throughs of the show consisted of late nights, with the team still at Phillips Hall until 11 p.m. while the school outside resembled a ghost town. 

When the time finally came for opening night, everyone was excited to finally get back to theater in its most traditional form. 

One of the lead actors, Sergio Camez said, “there is nothing like being in a room and being on stage.” His fellow Actress Cristina Villagomez finished this thought by adding, “and feeling the people inside of there reacting to what you’re putting out.”

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