Gabriel Smith, Campus Carrier asst. arts and living editor
Last week, the Berry College Theatre Company (BCTC) streamed its production of Tartuffe online to the Berry community. The play was originally intended to be performed live during April of last semester, but ended up having to be postponed and moved online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Anna Filippo, director of theatre, served as the director and producer of the production, and said that the streaming was the culmination of almost a year of planning, rehearsing and filming.
“It’s a very long process,” Filippo said. “We started, actually, last November, with what’s called a ‘concept meeting.’ That’s when the director and the designers get together and talk about the play in its broadest sense, you know, what is this play saying, and how do we want to tell this story?”
The performance was originally intended to take place in-person last April, as part of the annual Symposium on Student Scholarship. With the play now being released in October of 2020, BCTC had an extended amount of time to prepare for the eventual streaming. This, however, also imposed a new challenge, in the form of cast changes after students graduated in May. It also meant the Company would have to film the play, which Filippo said the Company had no prior experience with.
“When we were going to come back from spring break, we would only have had about six or seven more rehearsals before we went into tech, which that’s the final time when you put all the design elements in together,” Filippo said. “So, we would have only had about a week and a half, maybe two weeks, of total rehearsal before we opened the show. So, we were very close.”
Along with recasting some roles in the play, as well as hiring and training new student workers, the Company was then required to film a production to be streamed asynchronously for the first time in their history. According to Filippo, this process required collaboration with outside groups.
“We reached out to Viking Fusion, and Mr. Steven Hames was fantastic,” Filippo said. “He loaned us camera equipment, and he also came over and did some training with our students. Just based on that our students picked up what they could. I thought that for entry-level, novice camera operators, they did real well.”
She furthered that in order to avoid producing a boring, hard-to-see recording of the play, the team used a three-camera strategy that helped provide a more dynamic recording of the play’s action. This helped to capture more of the acting, and provide a wider range of shots for the editors to use when putting together the video production.
“Have you ever seen a show that’s been recorded, but it’s performed on-stage, so it’s not a movie, it’s just being recorded? And sometimes, there’s one camera in the back and it looks terrible and you can’t see anything or hear anything,” Filippo said. “We didn’t want that, so we set up three cameras, and we were able to get close-ups, and cut in and cut away, and that kind of thing. For people who just walked in and learned about this off-the-cuff, I’m really, really, proud of the camera and editing teams. They really worked hard.”
Matthew Wilson, a senior theatre major who acted as a character in the show, said that while the play’s content remained fundamentally the same, its postponement and pandemic-related social distance restrictions did lead to some changes during the production, including some major costume changes.
“Well, we obviously had to start wearing masks, even during the show,” Wilson said. “I don’t think any of us had ever done a show wearing masks, covering our mouths, so that was a big change. We did have to change our blocking a little bit in some of the scenes, to be more [than] six feet away from each other.”
For some characters, including Wilson’s character, COVID-19 related safety precautions made it into the final costume design in more than just the presence of a mask. As Wilson explained, his character had to hold hands with another during the play. Because of this, he, as well as the other person, incorporated gloves into their costumes.
Overall, everyone involved with the play expressed their happiness and satisfaction that the production could still be released, despite the pandemic. The performance was available for viewing for $5 under, but it is no longer accessible, as of last Sunday. BCTC will plan for more performances in the future.