Indiana Daily Student

IU Theatre’s ‘At First Sight’ festival to feature three new virtual plays

<p>A screenshot shows cast and crew members of &quot;Waycross&quot; during one of their early rehearsals over Zoom. &quot;Waycross&quot; will be available for download March 31.</p>

A screenshot shows cast and crew members of "Waycross" during one of their early rehearsals over Zoom. "Waycross" will be available for download March 31.

IU Theatre will present its ninth annual  “At First Sight” festival tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Every year, “At First Sight” presents three plays written by graduate student playwrights. First-year students will present a play reading while second and third year students put on a full production. This year, the festival is being conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tickets for the livestreams and recordings will be sold on IU theater’s website.

The first of the two full productions is “The Black & Brown Guerrillas” written by graduate student Christin Eve Cato and directed by IU alumnus David Koté. The full length production will be livestreamed on Vmix at 7:30 p.m., March 23 through 27.

The play begins at the end of 2020 after a year of Black Lives Matter protests, police brutality and a pandemic. The story follows Evaristo and Keisha, who see a problem with the way they're treated in society, and form an organization called The Black and Brown Guerillas, Koté said.

“The heartbeat of the play is about love and about people embracing others and wanting the country that represents the people,” Koté said. 

The production has been rehearsing Monday through Friday over Zoom since February, Koté said. The most difficult part of the rehearsal process was creating human connection over a screen, he said. 

“We all kind of solved it together and figured out where our sight lines are, what story we were telling, who we’re talking to,”  Koté said. “We just kept going and working with the process and hopefully we can do such a good job that people forget they are looking at the computer.”

The second production, “Waycross,” is an audio play that was written by graduate student Jayne Deely and directed by professor Jenny McKnight. The audio play will be available for download from March 31 through April 3. After buying a ticket, attendees will receive email access to a digital version of the play that they can download and listen to anytime. 

The play follows elite spy Lee, played by IU alumna Carolyn Stouder. She is assigned to a mission to infiltrate a community theater in Waycross, Georgia, and go undercover in the production as a dramaturg, theater literary advisor. 

“Beneath the surface, the play is really about community, possibility and magic of theater,” Deely said. “It’s a love letter to the theater that was born in a time in which we couldn't gather.”

McKnight said for a majority of the cast and crew, this is their first audio play. She said the process went smoothly thanks to the dedication from the entire team.

“The cast is very motivated to make it the best it can be,” McKnight said. “Everybody's just been really willing to dive in and try things and not worry if it ends up being awful because then we'll just do a new take.”

The rehearsals and recordings of the play reflected more of the production of a movie, McKnight said. Starting in February, the cast met to read through the script and talk about the characters. Every week following that, smaller groups would meet on Riverside FM to rehearse their scenes, get some directions, and then record the audio, Mcknight said.

The play's initial recording concluded on March 14. Currently, scenes are being sound edited, stitched together and rerecords are in the process, McKnight said. 

Finally, the virtual reading of “Dumb Bitch Juice,” written by graduate student Annalise Cain, will be livestreamed 7:30 p.m. April 2 on IU theater’s YouTube and Facebook pages. 

Directed by M.F.A. Directing candidate Jamie Anderson, the story is a comedy and combines finding love with solving the earth’s climate crisis.

Deely said they were happy “At First Sight” was able to happen despite the circumstances. 

“It’s a really good time to come together and hear new work,” Deely said. “For us playwrights, it's really the most special time of the year.”

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