Do you know what it’s like to do theatre virtually? It may be easier than you believe! Come to the season’s first virtual performance of West Chester University’s Department of Theatre and Dance to feast your eyes upon the dates, interviews, game shows and TikToks of “Unmute Yourself” and watch the parents, siblings and students’ nights together as awkward and momentous events unravel.
The devised theatre art form “Unmute Yourself” is directed by Associate Professor Charlie DelMarcelle. When students and their parents or siblings are invited to share about their time during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, dancing, sleeping, game shows and interviews come about that provide delicate and ludicrous questions and answers.
A devised play has no script and is brought to life by eccentric cast members through their responses to situations that are thrown at them in a variety of manners. The students are great, filled with boundless energy. The virtual theatre performance is challenging compared to live theatre in the sense of non-physicality, but the positive part is that all of the students get to perform and produce in our homes, giving our passion through the screen.
One of the assistant directors, Olivia DiIorio, says what success is to her is how the production team and cast members feel like they can say: “Wow, we’re actually doing it. We’re making real and impactful theatre from separate homes, cities and even states. And it’s actually working.” As most would think, nothing compares to live theatre, but one of the best parts about virtual theatre is using the features of the Zoom app, which allows for creation of our own adventures. The chat function is definitely a game changer for the audience as live theatre does not allow for chatting during the performance, so the virtual chat feature helps it to be interactive.
“Unmute Yourself” increases the voices of the students and applications like Zoom by allowing everyone to be involved. West Chester University’s Department of Theatre and Dance considered doing this virtual performance during our world’s pandemic because of the opportunities that it gave, but it also has challenges due to the issues that arise from technology. The parts that cast member Leslie Monaco likes about virtual theatre is that it has its own set of challenges to overcome. Of course, this could be due to audio and video troubles, but the performance coming from the comfort of our homes is what makes it enjoyable to the students.
When asked if WCU Department of Theatre and Dance should consider more virtual performances in the future when not during any world crisis, stage manager Becs Smith, assistant directors DiIorio and Alex Savage, and cast member Monaco all agreed it should be considered as there is easy access and no commuting involved, but nothing can replace the in-person interaction of live theatre. While nothing can replace the physical connection of live theatre, the virtual theatre experience can work and it does in “Unmute Yourself.” Come see for yourself!
Tickets for “Unmute Yourself,” a devised work, can be reserved at http://wcupatix.com/theatredance. Registration is required to view the show. A link to access the show will be emailed to you prior to the performance. The performance is offered free of charge but donations to two student organizations, University Dance Company and University Theatre, are encouraged.