by Anna Perez, Staff Writer, April 2021
This spring, Nobles is putting on its second-ever virtually directed and performed production. After the success of “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” this fall, Vivian Tao (Class I) decided to direct their own virtual production. Their student-directed production (SDP) will feature two short plays, “Morning Star” and “Little Green One.” Each play focuses on the growth and change of a relationship between two characters played by Jackie Zhang (Class III) and Sam Li (Class IV).
“Morning Star” is about two high schoolers who want to stargaze in the same spot, but don’t know each other. Through the play, they learn more about each other, developing a friendship and their knowledge of the importance of the stars. “Little Green One” takes place in a girl’s senior year on the night of her last performance as she apologizes to her teacher for hurtful things she has said in the past.
Zhang is excited about the way these plays allow her to work on her acting skills in a smaller environment as well as the spotlight put on her characters. By working on plays with only two actors, both Zhang and Li have more opportunities to enhance their individual skill sets. “Since it’s a smaller student-directed production, it’s more of a chance to practice my acting,” Zhang said. She specified, “I have a really long monologue in ‘Little Green One,’ and I’m excited to work on that.”
Despite the virtual aspect and the challenges of not being in the same physical space, all members of the SDP are excited about the upcoming opportunity. “Every chance we get [to perform] during this time is really great,” Li said.
New technologies have had a significant effect on the way these plays can be performed. Different features of Zoom, such as virtual backgrounds and filters, have enabled further creativity in the virtual performance process. “We can use the technological effects to enhance certain scenes and allow them to run smoother,” Li said. Since Tao was involved in “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” and directed some short plays over Zoom in the past summer, they feel very prepared for this experience.
While the rehearsals have been going well, there have been some difficulties that the actors and Tao have faced. One of which is a lack of rehearsal time. With fewer rehearsals and additional coursework to focus on, it is harder to remember to work on their parts. “We only have two rehearsals a week, so we need to remember to work on it,” Li said.
Due to these reduced rehearsal times, Tao and the actors are unsure if they will be able to accomplish all that they want to by the performance date. Additionally, it is harder to connect to the audience through a virtual performance. “There’s always going to be something missing; theater is to be seen by an audience, so there is definitely a missing component when you do it pre-recorded,” Tao said. Something specifically missing from online performances is actors’ abilities to convey the same emotions they could in person. “A lot of acting is about body language, and it’s harder to connect over a screen,” Zhang said.
Even with these challenges, Tao and the actors view the virtual performance positively. Some aspects of acting, such as the use of facial expressions, are enhanced by virtual performance. “Your facial expressions can allow for a more intimate experience,” Zhang said.
Tao also sees the SDP as an opportunity to branch out and experiment with new directing techniques. “You can dip into film a bit, working with angles [and other techniques],” Tao said. By watching other virtual productions, Tao has familiarized themself more with producing virtually. “It’s kind of on the line of theater and film; it’s really cool,” Tao said. After the pandemic hit last year and the spring play was unable to proceed as planned, many are excited at the idea of any sort of production.
The production will likely premiere on YouTube in late May and will be available for viewing at any point after that. While virtually-directed short plays are not conventional at Nobles, Tao and the actors are excited by the innovation behind this play and are looking forward to releasing their final product. “People should definitely watch it when it’s done,” Tao said.