Masque & Gown brings in-person theater back to campus with outdoor, distanced reading
May 14, 2021
Last Saturday afternoon, Masque & Gown, using the steps of the Peary-MacMillian Arctic Museum as a makeshift stage, performed a reading of Terry Wayne Gabbard’s play “Our Place.” The reading marked the first time that Masque & Gown has staged an in-person performance in over a year.
The one-act play—a collection of vignettes that explore the sentimental connections of multiple characters to the same dock—was directed by Julia Jennings ’23 and featured a cast of 10 masked and distanced students.
The primary aim of the reading was to bring a piece of the student theater community back to Bowdoin’s campus.
“It was really exciting to … connect people who are interested in theater in a way that felt like what we would normally get on campus,” said “Our Place” production manager Sinclaire Ledahl ’23 in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It was really exciting for me to get to connect to people and build more community among people who enjoy theater at Bowdoin.”
The idea of staging an in-person event was inspired by the demand by club members for Masque & Gown—who has been putting on virtual productions via Zoom for over a year—to have more involved programming. The club faced difficulty with trying to create a production that would capture attention while also adhering to social distancing and masking rules.
“We’ve definitely been struggling to find programming that people get excited about,” Ledahl said. “We just really wanted to do something that could get people involved.”
After several weeks determining what play to stage and where to perform it, Masque & Gown held open auditions early last week. The play was casted that Monday, and blocking and rehearsals started last Thursday.
“It was really exciting for me to just sort of be in a rehearsal process again, because it’s been a while since I got to be really doing things like working with actors,” Ledahl said. “It was really cool to be able to connect to people who are interested in theater in a way that felt like we normally would on campus.”
While not a traditional stage space, actors felt that the museum steps worked well for the show’s vignette structure.
“The [Arctic Museum] ledge allowed for use as the dock, and then the space behind [the ledge] is where we sat while we waited … for our section to happen,” said actor Wilder Short ’22 in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
Scheduling rehearsals at the end of the semester proved difficult for Ledahl and Jennings, who worked to create a convenient schedule for every member of the production. In addition to scheduling challenges, the actors onstage faced another issue: not being able to see the facial reactions of their colleagues.
“It’s weird to perform with the mask on,” Short said. “It’s just naturally a bit awkward, not being able to see people’s mouths when they speak and how people react.”
This performance, however, has set the stage for a busy fall for Masque and Gown.
“I want to get involved more,” said actor Ely Miller-Wilson ’23 in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I think that it’s a great group of people.”
Julia Jennings ’22 is a member of the Bowdoin Orient.
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