With COVID-19 making future plans uncertain for everyone, the Troy University Department of Theatre and Dance is finding creative ways to bring performances to the public.
Since news of the coronavirus stopped the world at the beginning of the year, many departments had to quickly change to adapt to new safety mandates, particularly with regards to social distancing.
The Theatre and Dance Department relies heavily on close contact and sharing of personal space, which are difficult to achieve in the age of COVID-19.
“We depend on being with each other physically for dance and theatre, and also for the emotional connection that comes from being in the same space with people, including our audience. We are not film — there’s an electric energy that comes from being in a live audience,” said Tori Averett, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.
In order to respect university protocols regarding social distancing, the department has required both students and faculty to wear masks at all times, whether during rehearsals or performances.
The department usually has about three to six productions, including plays, musicals and dance concerts, scheduled every semester, but they have been cut short this fall.
Instead, a new event, the Emerging Voices Festival, has been planned for the semester.
The festival is going to be a five-weekend event involving productions from students who are emerging artists. Some of these productions range from dance to musicals, and they will be addressing topics important to society.
“For those five weekends, there are two to four things going on every weekend, and these are mostly student-written, directed, choreographed and definitely student-performed,” Averett said. “There are lots of difficult topics going on in our world right now, and these pieces are addressing some of those topics. So, topics of race, sexuality, gender and identity in our country — a lot of works people are going to be seeing will address that, because our students are wanting to address that and want to talk about that.”
The festival serves as a valuable opportunity for students to gain experience in the arts.
“Everybody is working on something so they can be graded and they can get experience,” Averett said. “It’s also good for their resume.”
This event will begin on Oct. 22 and last through Nov. 22. It will be socially distanced and will only allow between 25 and 50 attendees.
The students and staff are making safety a priority no matter what the challenges may be.
“Our motto, ‘What’s Stopping You,’ is being put to the test this fall, and our students are meeting that question head-on. Very little is stopping this group of creative young professionals,” said Averett. “To see a room full of strong, athletic and elegant dancers in the Long Hall Studio all wearing masks and practicing safe social distancing without complaint—it is inspiring. The level of discipline and chin-up positivity they are bringing daily is a testament to the Trojan Warrior Spirit in our department.”