The College Theater Association (CTA) has announced two upcoming productions to be held sometime in November or December: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare and “Calvin Berger” by Barry Weiner. The two plays will be directed by Mason Barber and Caleb Eugley, respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in the CTA’s plans last year, making them unable to put on any in-person performances. Their activities were limited to Zoom, but members strived to make the most of the situation, hosting weekly meetings and workshops. The CTA also organized an SNL-type activity in which groups wrote and performed sketches virtually.
“As difficult as the pandemic was, the limitations it set on us actually allowed us to expand our ideas of what theatre is,” Barber, who is also the CTA president, said. “It pushed us to be more creative and develop a stronger understanding of movement and imagery. When you’re trapped in a small rectangle [on Zoom], there’s not much you can do. But we managed to expand past the rectangle and come out stronger, more united, and more creative.”
Eugley agreed that the pandemic-era restrictions had actually allowed for creative growth.
“The pandemic was a huge hurdle for us educationally and artistically,” Eugley said. “But we’re back in full swing now, and we’re so excited to show the ideas and concepts we’ve been working on.”
“Calvin Berger” is a modern take on “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmon Rostand, which was written in 1897. The updated version will be set in a high school, and the contemporary twist is sure to add lots of laughs.
“The original play is very entertaining by itself, so I’m sure a modern take on it will be hilarious,” Eugley said.
Barber selected “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” due to the challenging nature of the play, given its complex language. He pointed out that Shakespeare’s works haven’t been produced much at SUNY Plattsburgh, but he wants to change that. In doing so, he looks forward to challenging both himself and everyone else, encouraging them to exercise rarely used theatrical muscles.
In addition, he has some interesting ideas about how to make the production more engaging for audiences.
“I want to explore the concept of sensory theatre,” Barber said. “I want audiences to see, hear, taste, and smell the play. We might be incorporating different food items, candles, mist, and more. Also, I don’t want the audience to be sitting the entire time. I’m exploring ways to have the play be set in different rooms, letting the audience get up and move from place to place.”
The shows, however, will have to be performed in masks, but that’s not a major issue for either of the directors.
“I’m actually really interested to see how it turns out,” Eugley said. “Did you know some of the world’s most ancient plays were performed in Greece while wearing masks? It’s like we’re paying homage to the history of theatre, almost.”
Barber shares Eugley’s enthusiasm regarding the incorporation of masks.
“Last night, it just clicked in my head how I can best utilize masks in the play,” Barber said. “What if we used different masks for different settings — for example, using a mask resembling a leaf to represent characters being outside in nature. Also, a moment of trust and intimacy between two characters can be represented by them taking off their masks for each other. Maybe for comedic purposes, they’ll take off their masks just to reveal another one under it.”
Auditions for the plays were held on the 24th and 25th. After a year of no performances and given some current regulations and restrictions, there was some expectation that people would hesitate to show up. However, the directors were happy with the turnout, excited especially by the number of freshmen that expressed interest in performing.
“The CTA is buzzing with energy and enthusiasm right now,” Eugley said. “After a year of no in-person performances, we can’t wait to show everyone what we’ve come up with. I think everyone should be excited to see what we have planned.”