Henry Woronicz, a nationally recognized actor, director and producer, directed Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” as his first IU production in 2006. Fifteen years later, he is once again directing the show, only this time during a pandemic.
IU Theatre will present “Twelfth Night” 7:30 p.m., March 2-6. The play will be streamed virtually on vMix and no in-person production will take place, with cast performing from their own homes. Tickets are free and available on the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance website.
“Working together in a room telling a story is at the heart of the process, so there's elements that are still there, but there are other parts that are just not there,” Woronicz said.
“Twelfth Night” is a comedy about who we fall in love with and why we fall in love with them, Woronicz said. The plot involves twins Viola and Sebastian who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola disguises herself as a man to increase her chances of survival, but ends up falling for Orsino.
Rehearsals began Jan. 18, with the cast rehearsing Monday through Friday from 6:30-10:30 p.m. All meetings and rehearsals were conducted over Zoom or vMix.
Graduate student Anna Doyle plays the lead as Viola/Sebastian. She described the rehearsal process in three phases. The first stage and second stage consisted of reading through the script, and eventually getting the actors to move around in their space and get more specific with their actions.
Currently, the cast is in the technical stage which involves fixing lighting, backgrounds and even directing actors where to look when on camera.
“It’s actually really funny,” Doyle said. “They'll be like ‘now turn to your left and look at whatever is on your wall at that eye level, so looks like you're looking at them on the screen.”
As everyone is performing separately at home, actors have to transform a part of their living space into a studio, Doyle said. The production crew sent out equipment to try and keep audio and video as consistent as possible. Actors received a webcam, USB microphone, greenscreen, lights and an ethernet cable.
Along with the equipment and setup, Doyle said other challenges exist performing virtually. She said programs like Zoom and vMix can sometimes have delays that actors have to adjust to.
“When you're doing Shakespeare, so much of it relies on feeling the rhythm in person and picking up on each other's impulses and literal breaths,” Doyle said. “It's so hard to try and be impulsive and in the moment as there's a lot of negotiating that has to happen to incorporate the technology.”
Graduate student Bobby Coyne plays Sir Andrew Aguecheek. He said he has felt a loss of connection that normally comes with live theatre.
“I love being on the stage and interacting face to face with other characters,” Coyne said. “Through a digital platform, it's a little harder to make that connection especially with eye contact since you can’t have your eyes on the camera and the screen at the same time.”
Even though there is no staging in terms of blocking or going up and down an actual stage, the production is trying to mimic both in the performance, Woronicz said. The actors can move around a little on camera and greenscreen technology will broadcast a digital image to have it appear the actors are in the same area.
Doyle said people should attend this production because it does not feel like the average Zoom shows she has done in the past.
“With creative backgrounds that our set designers have come up with and the music and lighting, you can almost trick your brain into thinking you are watching an indie art film,” Doyle said. “So in that way, this show is a unique, fun new medium to check out.”