University Productions announces 2020 virtual season of theater for December
During the pandemic, music has found its way: making songs in home studios, livestreams, and even socially distanced concerts have been a regular part of the past eight months.
Visual arts have also slowly come back in the form of virtual gallery shows, outdoor murals, and some staggered, limited-capacity crowds entering museums.
But theater, with its heavy reliance on casts and crew working in close proximity, has really struggled since Covid ravaged the world.
Locally, Ann Arbor's Theatre NOVA and Ypsilanti’s Neighborhood Theatre Group did Zoom theater festivals in October, and Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and Dexter Community Players did two days of outdoor performances of original Halloween-themed plays on October 30 and 31 at Dominos' Petting Farm.
But the move to indoor productions on a slightly larger scale is about to swing back into action thanks to University Productions' virtual season, which will run in December on U-M's School of Music, Theatre, and Dance YouTube site and one premiere on SMTD's Facebook page.
All the performances will be available to view online for free, albeit for a limited time, and the six shows will feature four from Departments of Musical Theatre and Theatre & Drama and two from the University Opera Theatre. The season was filmed throughout this semester with numerous safety protocols in place.
With most University of Michigan students being asked to stay home for the winter semester, this might be our last chance for a while to take in some quality theater from the SMTD crews.
Here's the lineup with descriptive text provided by University Productions:
A Beautiful Country
Wednesday, December 2
Using dance, drag, drama, and documentary elements, A Beautiful Country chronicles 150 years of Asian-American immigration history. Miss Visa Denied, a transgender drag queen and performer, is the narrator who guides the audience through the turbulent history of Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese people coming to America. Heartfelt testimonials and the dramatization of some highly vibrant and egregious pieces of propaganda showcase the provocative events that have shaped this history. Addressing issues of race, gender, and appropriation, this play examines the fundamental questions surrounding the immigrant experience, including what it means to be an American. This production was filmed over two weeks in the Arthur Miller Theatre and various remote locations according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed. The production will receive its premiere on Facebook and be available for one week on SMTD's YouTube beginning on Wednesday, December 2.
MT Ghostlight 2020
Friday, December 4: Episode 1
Friday, December 11: Episode 2
Friday, December 18: Episode 3
In theatre tradition, a ghostlight—usually a single bulb—remains on an empty stage when a theatre goes dark, to appease the spirits. Faced with the near impossibility of putting on a fully-staged production during a pandemic, the Department of Musical Theatre has chosen to provide a new kind of ghostlight: an online-only revue of the best that the department has to offer. This student-driven production will feature songs, skits, and dances directed, choreographed, performed, and in some cases written by students from across the Department Musical Theatre. From classics of musical theatre to pop, folk, and jazz, this revue has it all. This production was recorded over the months of October and November in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, the Arthur Miller Theatre, and remotely, according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed. MT Ghostlight 2020 will be released on SMTD’s YouTube channel in three installments over three weeks, on Fridays beginning December 4 at 8 pm EST. Each episode will be available for one week.
Opera One-Acts, both sung in English:
All Wounds Bleed
Daughters of Bloody Duke
Wednesday, December 9
The University Opera Theatre showcases two new works—each around 30 minutes in length—in a stripped-down performance on the University of Michigan’s North Campus. The first opera, All Wounds Bleed, is a re-telling of the myth of Echo & Narcissus in three scenes and an epilogue, composed by Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Cerrone with libretto by Tony Asaro. It features three vocalists—a soprano, a mezzo, and a tenor—as nymph Echo, goddess Hera, and self-adoring Narcissus, respectively.
The second opera, Daughters of Bloody Duke, is a dark comedic one-act opera written by Jake Runestad, in which Margot, the young daughter of the Bloody Duke of Ravenswood, must choose between love and the demands of her revenge-crazed family. This performance was filmed live with piano accompaniment in the McIntosh Theatre on October 9, according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed—including masks for the vocalists. The Opera One-Acts will premiere on SMTD's YouTube channel on Wednesday, December 9 at 8:00 PM EST, where it will be available for a one-week run.
Wednesday, December 16
Based on the short story by Karen Russell, Proving Up is an intimate and haunting look at the perils of the American Dream. Set in Nebraska in the 1870s at the height of the push west, a family of homesteaders struggles to meet the daunting requirements of the Homestead Act as they try “proving up” on their land claim. This atmospheric new chamber opera from composer Missy Mazzoli features a sparse cast and orchestra, and was selected as one of The New York Times’ Best Classical Music of 2018 selections. This performance was filmed live in the Power Center over two nights in November, according to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s approved safety plan. All safety protocols for the performing arts to prevent the spread of Covid 19 were observed—including masks for the vocalists. Proving Up will premiere on the SMTD YouTube channel on Wednesday, December 16 at 8:00 PM EST, where it will be available for a one-month run. Proving Up is sung in English with an approximate run time of 80 minutes.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.
Visit smtd.umich.edu/2020-virtual-season for more info.