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Student performance groups navigate newfound separation

May 1, 2020

Ann Basu
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Bowdoin Music Collective is well-known for its yearly "Battle of the Bands." The event won't take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As remote learning has become the new global norm, college communities have been searching for ways to stay united while physically apart. At Bowdoin, student performance groups are channelling their creativity to bring the College’s community together with virtual performances.

“I think it’s really important that student groups try to do something,” said Brendan Pulsifer ’20, the leader of Improvabilities, in a video interview with the Orient. “It’s much better to attempt to make the connection and have it fail than to not do anything at all.”

Improvabilities, the College’s oldest improvisational comedy group, has been preparing in recent weeks to host a virtual performance. However, Pulsifer has some hesitations about maintaining the quality of improvisational comedy on this platform.

“A big part of the experience of watching and doing improv is the live physicality,” he said. “You’re in a space and it’s a dark auditorium. You’re watching people interact with each other, doing scenes not only with emotional comedy but with physical comedy—so much of it is being in that space.”

Despite the challenges, Pulsifer is optimistic about the performance. By returning to the basics of improvisation, he believes that the limits of using a digital platform will not stop the performers from spreading positivity and humor.

“At one basic level, all you really need is two people having a conversation to do humor,” Pulsifer said. “We have the opportunity to connect with not just two people but with multiple people at the same time. We have video, so you can see the person and have some kind of physicality.”

Just as hopeful is Danny Little ’22, co-leader of the Bowdoin Music Collective (BMC). In collaboration with the Entertainment Board, the BMC is attempting to host a virtual end-of-year showcase. Little is excited about the new possibilities brought by this virtual medium.

“You can do things that you wouldn’t really be able to do in a live setting,” Little said in a video interview with the Orient. “Live performance limits you more than recording by not being able to mix and copy and paste.”

A cappella groups are likewise not shying away from technology and plan on using it to their benefit. Pulsifer, who is also the musical director of the Meddiebempsters and co-president of the A Capella Council, feels hopeful that a cappella can be adapted to an online format.

To accomplish this, members of the Meddibempsters will each attempt to individually record their part of a song. Someone will then edit the audio and video together in order to create a cohesive recording.

As excited as students are about the possibility of continuing to perform for their peers,  some experiences cannot be recreated virtually. This is particularly true for the senior class.

“In a cappella we always have a senior solo concert,” said Pulsifer. “It’s very emotional and you look back on your time. You get to do your last swan song, and obviously we can’t do that.”

Despite a new slew of challenges, Pulsifer and others try to maintain high spirits.

“There’s no opportunity for the same kind of closure,” he said. “It’s very disappointing, but I think that’s why I’m trying to focus on creative solutions to this situation as opposed to packing our bags and doing nothing.”


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