As performing venues across the world temporarily closed due to the pandemic, many organizations and institutions had to pivot quickly to online productions or other alternate spaces for performance. Professor Sergio Costola at Southwestern University and Grackle Jack Productions Artistic Director CB Goodman gathered together with a small group of students from the Devising Theatre class and seized the moment to create the hybrid remote theatre piece, GHOST Unit: The Live Event.
Over the course of the spring 2021 semester, the ensemble engaged in extensive research in order to prepare for the month-long summer creation period. They worked individually during the week and then came together each Saturday to discuss their research on digital performances happening at other colleges and professional theatres, to share scholarly articles on liveness and pandemic theatre, and to analyze the works of playwright Anton Chekhov.
During the summer, they gathered together and worked 40 hours a week for the entire month of July. During this intensive devising period, they worked on developing characters adapted from The Cherry Orchard, learned clowning techniques, choreographed a dance number based on John Cage chance operations, wrote original music, learned how to operate Czech marionette inspired puppets, began researching and incorporating ghost hunting shows, wrote a script in a non-traditional format inspired by The Wooster Group, and built their own props and costumes.
On top of all this typical devising work, the students also had to learn how to create theatre for both a virtual and in person audience. Many hours were devoted to learning how to build and operate the green screen theaters. They taught themselves the streaming software Ecamm, experimented with green screen technology, programed and learned how to use Stream Deck for navigating scenes, designed and mixed their sound, and learned how to perform looking into a camera while at the same time run all their own tech.
Next was putting everything together for an audience. This production was designed to bring theatre to those who typically do not attend and reconnect communities with this art form. The flexible nature of the production allows to travel to communities often disregarded: nursing homes, retirement communities, schools, hospitals, prisons, community centers, libraries, the list is endless. At the same time these separate communities are attending in person, an online audience can attend from anywhere in the world with internet access. The people that attend in person have a unique experience based on immersive theatre practices and on which performer they are paired with.
The group is continuing to develop the piece over the course of the spring 2022 semester and will be performing at the Virtual Region 6 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival February 24-27th, before taking the production to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the International Collegiate Theatre Festival.
Stay connected to find out more about upcoming performances and how you can get involved in this bold new traveling theatre for the 21st century.