School of Stage and Screen to present Shakespeare classic via Zoom technology

George Brown (right), dean of WCU’s David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts, rehearses with students for their virtual production of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

Theatrical stages from coast to coast may have gone dark in this time of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but that has not stopped the folks from the School of Stage and Screen at Western Carolina University from sharing their talents with the public.

In the grand tradition of “the show must go on,” WCU students and faculty will present William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” via Zoom, the videoconferencing service that has exploded in popularity as millions of students and workers find themselves studying and working remotely because of the coronavirus crisis.

The livestream, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, April 17, can be viewed on the School of Stage and Screen Facebook page and the main WCU Youtube channel. Numerous other Facebook channels, including the main WCU channel and the Bardo Arts Center channel, will also live stream the event. Further event details can be found at arts.wcu.edu/virtual.

George Brown, dean of WCU’s David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts and director of the “Zooming Shakespeare” production, is billing the presentation as “a 21st-century way of performing during the plague.” Or, to twist a line from the late Mickey Rooney, “Hey, kids, you have internet access. Let’s put on a show!”

For the past few weeks, 15 students and two faculty members from the School of Stage and Screen have been rehearsing the Shakespeare comedy over Zoom, with students logging in from homes, some as far away as Oregon, New York and New Jersey, Brown said.

“For approximately two hours every night, we join together in this virtual space to rehearse the play in ways not so different as we would in a face-to-face setting – focusing on character, action and language. We play a little with physicality as well, but that is limited by our being tethered to the computer,” he said. “We call this event a ‘performed reading’ utilizing a standardized costume and some props. We have even discovered a way to virtually pass props.”

The troupe will be raising the curtain – virtually – on its production April 17, working with Samuel Wallace, a 2016 graduate of WCU’s motion picture and television production program, and director of photo and video production in University Communications and Marketing.

“I am really proud of the students, faculty and professional staff who have been working together to share this virtual performance with our community both near and far,” Brown said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the arts across the country like a punch in the stomach. Theaters, museums, galleries and concert halls across the country are shutting down. I receive notices every day of another closure.”

Several students involved in the production have seen their summer employment opportunities vanish because shows have been canceled and venues have been shuttered, he said.

“This production is an act of creative defiance against the pandemic,” Brown said. “As a theater artist, I find reassurance in knowing that, although the Elizabethan theater was repeatedly shut down due to the plague, it survived as a vibrant and active community of artists that included Shakespeare. This pandemic will pass. This production of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ is a small example of how passion, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit will lead in our recovery.”

The production will be streamed on the WCU School of Stage and Screen Facebook page and the main WCU YouTube channel, as well as the university’s main Facebook channel and the Bardo Arts Center Facebook channel. Links to several of those social media channels, along with additional event details, can be found at arts.wcu.edu/virtual.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” tells the tale of the King of Navarre and his friends, who take an oath to dedicate themselves to a life of study and avoid the company of women for three years. Soon after their pledge, the Princess of France and her ladies-in-waiting arrive, presenting the men with a severe test of their resolve. Cast members are:

Bobby Guenther, a senior musical theater major, as King Ferdinand.

Tyler Ledbetter, a junior musical theater major, as Berowne.

Sam Rodd, a freshman musical theater major, as Longaville.

Daniel Roszelle, a sophomore stage and screen major, as Dumain.

Hannah-Kathryn Wall, a sophomore musical theater major, as Princess.

Callista Brown, a senior musical theater major, as Rosaline.

Alaina Newell, a junior musical theater major, as Maria.

Rachel Sabo-Hedges, a junior musical theater major, as Katharine and Jaquenetta.

Helen Rose Miller, a senior musical theater major, as Boyet.

Caleb Spainhour, a sophomore musical theater major, as Don Armado.

Lexi Yauch, a sophomore musical theater major, as Moth.

Ryan Albinus, a senior musical theater major, as Costard.

Micah Patt, a junior musical theater major, as Sir Nathaniel and Forester.

Lily Gaddis, a freshman musical theater major, as Dull.

Max Morter, a junior musical theater major, as Marcade and French lord.

Colin Wasmund, assistant professor of acting, as Holofernes.