From March 11 to 14 and March 19 to 20, 2021, two plays will take the virtual stage at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (CDTPS). This year’s show is free and will feature two fantastic productions: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare and TomorrowLove by Rosamund Small, both directed by CDTPS instructors Dylan Trowbridge and Graham Abbey. As the COVID-19 restrictions have continued through the winter semester, the directors, actors, and instructors have had to quickly adapt to the digital screen.
“For Dream, we’ve had to take the highly physicalized and projected nature of Shakespeare and morph it to fit the small Zoom boxes we place ourselves in,” said Kimia Karachi, A Midsummer Night’s Dream actor. “Fitting the physical presence of your entire body into a medium close-up shot is a challenge that we have all had to work with throughout the course of this show.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a digital re-imagining of Shakespeare’s magical comedy that interrogates concepts of love, friendship, gender, and power, and features a superb ensemble from U of T’s CDTPS Drama 403 class.
“The biggest challenge for me is not being able to feel the energy of the cast and crew as a cohesive whole in person,” said actor Teodora Djuric. “It’s definitely harder to play around in scenes through a screen, especially when there are multiple people involved and you lack that peripheral sense of their energy within the scene. You can’t share side glances or have little moments of touch.”
The second virtual production, TomorrowLove, is a bold, intimate and curious play cycle that imagines future technologies and their impact—both positive and negative—on human relationships. These minimalist digital chamber pieces also highlight the considerable talents of U of T’s CDTPS Drama 403 class.
In recent years, the CDTPS Mainstage Show has only focused on one play. According to Director Dylan Trowbridge, he and Graham Abbey wanted to direct shows that they knew the students of Drama 403 were passionate about.
“Graham and I have a strong foundation in classical theatre and believe that the imaginative, linguistic, and emotional demands of Shakespeare would be of great value to the students,” said Dylan. Some students, however, were more inspired to focus on contemporary acting. So, they were able to explore both a classical and contemporary piece, thus choosing to do two different plays and exposing themselves and the students to two radically different styles of digital theatre.
“We selected TomorrowLove because we felt the text would provide a great challenge for our students, and the scenes contained within this play cycle would resonate very powerfully online,” said Dylan. “Rosamund Small's TomorrowLove is a thematically perfect play for digital delivery. Her exploration of future technologies and their impact on human relationships is at once moving, funny and haunting.”
The selection of A Midsummer Night’s Dream came much later in the process when students began to campaign to put on the play.
“It occurred to us that this play was just a perfect fit for this group. Deep, urgent, funny, youthful and magical. And then we began to imagine the great possibilities that existed from a design perspective,” said Dylan. “It was very important to us that the play we selected could be optimized when reimagined for a digital platform. And Dream with its fairies and magic presented great opportunities for digital creativity.”
The virtual Mainstage Show has provided both directors and students with important lessons about theatre through acting online. “Through this process, I have learned that there are thrilling storytelling possibilities that exist within this medium, once we embrace it,” said Dylan.
Meanwhile, Kimia has learned how to become her own videographer. “You get to learn what lighting or shots work best for you, boosting your confidence in a scene. I’ve also learned fun techniques like travelling on-screen, experimenting with whispering and personal close-ups.”
Although the process of the Mainstage Show is unconventional this year, some students are still looking forward to the digital aspects of the shows. Teodora is excited to see the production team’s work on filters in Digital Dream. “It also poses its own fun challenge to act with the filters in mind, sort of like mask work. You definitely want to check out the wild and incredible work that the production team is putting into it!”
To read more about the shows and to get the details on how to view them March 11-14 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) through video on demand and March 19-20 (TomorrowLove) through livestream on the Mainstage YouTube channel, visit: uoft.me/TLD.