The phrase “the show must go on” has new meaning for Virginia Rep’s upcoming season. It will be “accompanied by new expectations,” says Nathaniel Shaw, the theatre’s artistic director. “Business as usual will be different. We look forward to exceeding those different expectations, once again producing live theatre that entertains, challenges, and uplifts the community.”
Even though the stage is dark, Virginia Rep is finding virtual ways to connect with audiences and students, everything from Dark Night Duets, Hope from Home Monologues, StageConnect, and At-Home Activities.
Virginia Rep kicked off Dark Night Duets a few weeks ago. The video series features beloved songs from musical theatre selected by music supervisor Anthony Smith and performed by artists from Richmond and beyond who are recording the songs from their homes. Smith then combines the videos into fun duets for everyone to enjoy.
Hope from Home Monologues is a new collaborative project that involves theatre artists and audiences. Virginia Rep is gathering and sharing fifteen stories of Richmonders during the COVID-19 crises.
Playwrights will take the stories of hope, courage, love, anguish, and humor, and craft them into uplifting messages. Actors will interpret the stories, taping their performance with their cell phone. The monologues will be posted on Virginia Rep’s YouTube channel, in the weekly E-News and on social media. All the material sent to Virginia Rep will be treated as anonymous and will be stored as a possible source for creative works in the future.
Keeping Young Minds Active
Bringing StageConnect to life was a collaborative effort between multiple departments at Virginia Rep.
“It is meant to serve as a home for much of our virtual educational offerings as Virginia Rep ventures into online education for the first time,” says Irene Kuykendall, education manager. “Our plan is to anchor both free and paid-for content on the site, with information and access to upcoming classes, courses, workshops, and camps.”
The education department is in the process of developing, taping, editing, and uploading a range of content. The online format for a particular course depends on the age range of the students and the content itself.
For example, the Story Drama course for ages three to six, which focuses on imaginative exploration, creative drama and best practices for reading readiness, is being pre-taped and emailed directly to parents.
“Parents of young children have a lot on their plate these days and we hope that by offering the course in this format, we are allowing them to engage with the videos from the comfort of their home, on a schedule that works for them,” Kuykendall says.
The Musical Theatre for Homeschoolers course, ages nine to eighteen, engages students in real time through platforms such as Google Meet and ZOOM, for weekly rehearsals. What was originally planned as a live performance has transitioned into a radio play of the Virginia Rep touring musical, Stone Soup.
“Students are focusing on vocal storytelling as they develop their characters with an emphasis on diction, pitch, pace, tone, and volume,” Kuykendall says. “Our hope is that by offering this weekly structure, we are giving the kids an opportunity to connect with their peers, socialize and create together.”
Virginia Rep’s At-Home-Activities are packed full of fun exercises that parents and children can engage with from the comfort of their home. “They are inspired by many of Virginia Rep’s touring shows and guide participants through games, crafts, puzzles, worksheets, and other activities,” Kuykendall says. “The material is SOL-focused and a great way to infuse creative fun into school work.”
Virginia Rep also has a variety of summer camp offerings, which are transitioning to a virtual camp format. Kids will find everything from Stage Explorers to Young Performers Institute.
“As theatre educators, our job is to inspire and support young minds and hearts; to challenge young performers to problem solve, connect, and create,” says Kuykendall. “Our aim is to reach more children at home than we ever thought possible; that we not only offer them engaging educational theatrical content, but a sense of hope, safety, and inspiration. We want to invest in their self-confidence, their skill level, and their ability to freely play, despite any current struggle they face. This can help to shape bright minds and creative souls into incredibly generous and empathetic humans; something our world could certainly use.”