On Saturday evening, Masque and Gown held its annual one-acts festival over a Zoom Webinar. For the first time in the festival’s history, rehearsals and performances for all three one-acts were entirely virtual—complete with introductory slides, audio components and digital backgrounds.
While many aspects of production—such as script selection, auditions and casting—were able to operate within the standard, three-week timeline, the technical aspects of the festival required more attention and rehearsal than they have in previous years.
“The one-acts festival typically happens in person, and all of the technical work is done on the day of the show or the day before the show,” said Lorenzo Hess ’23, one of the technical directors of the festival, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “On Zoom Webinar, you need days of tech prior to the performance—just because nobody’s in the same room, so communication is slower.”
However, Hess admitted that within these longer run-throughs, many of the technical directors’ tasks took far less time to accomplish than they would have with a physical set.
“If you need a prop to happen [on-stage], then you need to find where the prop is and bring it to the theater in time for tech. But if you need a virtual background, then in half an hour you can look that up online and download it,” Hess said. “There might be less of a feeling of urgency with doing things online.”
Because of the Festival’s increased reliance on technology, Hess and Aidan Ward ’24, the other technical director, found themselves engaging deeply with the one-acts’ directors to ensure that the tech was meeting the needs of each play.
“There’s more communication that technical directors have to do to hear from the directors about what they want,” Hess said. “There are more moving pieces.”
The possible unreliability of Zoom also required members of Masque and Gown to think creatively about potential internet issues and technical difficulties.
“We had a bit of a scare during our run-through on Saturday where one of our actors just got disconnected in the middle of the line,” said Sinclaire Ledahl ’23, one of Masque and Gown’s production managers, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We had to come up with a contingency in case something happened during the actual show.”
“I had a ‘technical difficulties’ slide prepared in case we lost connection or something,” Ward added in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We luckily didn’t need to use it.”
Over 230 people attended the festival and voted on their favorite one-act play. While Masque and Gown members missed Pickard Theater, Ledahl was happy to report that the Festival’s virtual attendance was far greater than the Theater’s capacity would have allowed.
“I think a lot of people watched with their roommates [and] their College Houses, which makes me happy,” Ledahl said. “I’m glad that we were able to reach people.”
Ayanna Hatton ’24, who directed one of the plays (“Ira Ari,” written by Franny Weed ’21), was pleasantly surprised by how seamless the performance was.
“I was most proud of the way that our movement parts worked out,” Hatton said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Those are hard to choreograph when you’re in separate spaces and trying to work over Zoom and trying to figure out what looks best, so I was really happy with how that turned out looking and how clean it became.”
While actors such as Catherine Crouch ’23 were initially hesitant about the challenge of acting over Zoom, the success of the Festival reminded them of the value of creating space for theater, even while it is impossible to gather in person.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m doing a one-act, but it’s on Zoom,’ but by the end of it, I was just doing a one-act,” said Crouch in a phone interview with the Orient. “It wasn’t necessarily about the fact that it was online, because we were able to get the same sort of camaraderie and respect for the piece that we would have in person.”
Since academic and student life at the College transitioned to remote models, this year’s one-acts festival was Masque and Gown’s largest and longest virtual event.
“Last semester, we had three virtual play readings, which happened in different weeks—I was doing the tech for that,” Hess said. “With the one-acts, [we were] able to manage three shows going on at once.”
In future performances, members of Masque and Gown hope to continue making creative use of virtual spaces and College-approved gatherings.
“We’re working on using things like the pod system and College Houses to play with the communities that you’re allowed to be in-person with and create fun theater opportunities,” Ledahl said.
Despite the challenges, Masque and Gown members have been grateful for the opportunity to continue holding performances and engaging with the Bowdoin community through theater.
“It’s definitely different to do things over Zoom, but I think you have to just make the best of the situation you’re in,” Hatton said. “To have a one-acts festival be a possibility was really, really great.”