In the midst of the pandemic, the performing arts continue to comfort us as an escape from our stressful lives. This weekend, an opportunity to safely view a live performance has arisen. With the many challenges of producing a safe, in-person performance, one senior at the University of Mount Union prepares to present a digital alternative this weekend.
Juliana Sutliff is a senior here at Mount Union with a double major in biology and theatre performance. On top of her duties as a Resident Assistant and vice-president of the Mount Players, Sutliff chose to direct one of her favorite Shakespeare plays despite the limitations the pandemic provides. Alongside her cast of fellow students, the group plans to perform Zamlet, or Zoom Hamlet, on the widely used video call platform. It may seem much easier to virtually produce a show, but Sutliff notes that it has not been a cakewalk.
“The challenges came from how new the platform is; nobody has really done what we’re doing,” Sutliff said. “Most productions done in quarantine have just had actors in boxes, but with Zamlet, we’re adding digital backgrounds and effects to enhance the experience. With new technology comes new roadblocks though, so we’ve had our fair share of technical glitches.”
Despite the challenges, the actors in Zamlet have a unique experience that most don’t get at the collegiate level. Theatrical performers are used to acting on a large stage in front of an audience with multiple rows. This forces them to rely more on their body movements to tell the story. With a virtual production, the camera that captures the actor is much closer, allowing them to display emotion with their facial expressions. One actor in particular has become quite fond of this new experience.
“I’ve become a big fan of it, acting in front of a camera,” said Jason Bowman, senior at UMU and castmate portraying the Ghost. “At first I didn’t know what to expect, but now that it’s time to perform the show, I think we’ve all gotten used to it and are having more fun together.”
You can view the virtual production of Zamlet for free from the comfort of your own home. Show times are this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and this Sunday at 2 PM. Mount Union students and staff can find a link to the performances in UMUToday, while community members can view the shows by visiting https://www.mountunion.edu/events/virtual-performance-hamlet.
“To zoom, or not to zoom, that is the question.”