By Irina Rusanova
Theater looks a little different this semester, and SVC’s professional theater group is no exception. On Oct. 16 and 17, The Players held their first virtual show, titled “Objection! Disorder in the Court!” live over Zoom. On Oct. 23, the recorded show was released on the SVC YouTube channel.
Greggory Brandt, assistant professor of theater and producing artistic director of Saint Vincent College Summer Theatre, spoke about planning for the one-act courtroom comedy. Though Brandt considered holding a live performance outdoors, he ultimately decided that holding a virtual show would be safer for students involved and would better adhere to current Saint Vincent College regulations.
“This play was written [by Brianna Dehn] specifically for a virtual performance,” he stated. “I had another play in mind to be performed outside but changed the play once I knew we would only be virtual.”
An article by Public Relations offers a synopsis:
“The one-act play chronicles the saga of Casey Licit, who is accused of committing an outrageous triple crime while traveling through the town of Berserksville. While she maintains her innocence, [Casey’s] cause is hampered by her hapless defense attorney and a score of outlandish witnesses, while the prosecution uses bribery and silly distractions in an effort to win the case.”
Justin Massetto, junior music major, played the part of Mr. Scammerton, the prosecutor. He spoke about his experience auditioning for the role.
“Honestly, the audition process felt the same,” he said. “I have had to do auditions in all different ways in the past, so it was not much of a difference—which was nice!”
Massetto introduced Mr. Scammerton and explained the difficulties he faced when stepping into the character.
“Mr. Scammerton could be described as an arrogant con man, which is the exact opposite of who I try to be! I normally do a character analysis whenever I step into a role in order to try and find motivations and important points so that I can properly portray what the writers intended. That was especially a challenge being in an online situation, so it required lots of extra work,” he said.
Brandt noted that the preparation and performance aspects of the virtual show were challenging.
“There are always challenges when directing any type or style of show,” Brandt explained. “The challenge with this style of production was more on the technical side. Green screen background options, laptop issues, lighting and sound problems were the most difficult to navigate, but we worked through them as best as we could with the help of our talented IT department.”
Brandt also said that the virtual performance included less blocking and staging of the actors than past productions. Though Brandt found that these factors made performing simpler, Massetto had some difficulty with the change.
“Preparing for the show was very challenging as it was a one act show with little to no real blocking, so that changed the way rehearsals were done,” Massetto said. “We did a bunch of socially distanced readings in the theatre with masks, but that made it challenging since we could not see or test out facial expressions.”
Massetto added that the rehearsals placed a major focus on experimenting with technology.
“Once we got into the dress rehearsal and started rehearsing it started to feel normal again,” he said.
The actors faced more hurdles during the live performances.
“It was very hard to try and perform a comedy show online because there were no audience responses to go off of,” Massetto explained. “Normally in a comedy, laughter is used to judge how long to pause and how to execute certain lines, but being online changed a lot of that, which proved difficult.”
Despite the difficulties, Brandt found that the show went well.
“I thought our Zoom performance was accepted well,” Brandt said. “Our marketing and PR departments did an excellent job posting it and publicizing it on the various online sites. Even our alumni office sent the link out to our alumni for viewing.”
“The show was received well, I have heard, and people tell me they very much enjoyed it!” Massetto said.
Brandt said that attendee numbers tend to average between 100 and 150 people per show during live onstage performances. He found that the virtual performance provided a unique viewing experience during the pandemic and that it provided students with the opportunity to gain more experience with on-camera acting.
“Facial expressions and smaller movements definitely made an impact,” he said. “The students met the challenges head on and did a phenomenal job while maintaining a smile. I was very pleased with their performances and their positive attitudes.”
“I feel [that the performance] provided valuable experience because it forced me to get out of my comfort zone, not only in the role I played but the circumstances of how I had to play that role,” Massetto similarly said. “In the future, I will feel more comfortable acting in any situation because of the experience I have had performing in ‘Objection! Disorder in the Court.’”
Brandt mentioned plans for future performances.
“Next semester I am directing a virtual tribute-style musical to a significant composer in musical theater history,” he said. “It's important to keep theater going no matter how challenging these times may be.”