HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — There is a familiar feeling back in the Kepler Theater. The Elements of Dramatic Production Class at Hagerstown Community College put on their first in-person theater performance since the fall semester of 2019.
John Cunningham is a freshman theater major and was looking forward to his second production at the school. He explained that having an in-person audience allows him to tailor or improve his performance based on the reactions from the audience members.
“It makes it a bit easier because you can interact with them and whenever you see the reactions, you know you’re doing stuff right, and you know, ‘Okay, I’m doing something good. I can keep going with this or I can keep this act going,'” Cunningham explained. “Whereas if they’re at home and you don’t know how you’re doing, it’s like, ‘Am I messing up? Are they not liking it, you know?”
The ongoing pandemic presented a new set of challenges for director Michael Harsh who also teaches the class. He has been an educator for over 40 years and is glad to be able to interact with his students in person rather than online. However, the pandemic has not only limited his contact with his students but also his ability to stage shows as he has in the past.
“The challenge in directing is I have to do the same thing [keep six feet of social distance] on stage. Not just masks but I can’t block anybody closer than six feet,” Harsh said. “And of course this [mask] presents unique challenges for articulation, pronunciation, and with mic’ing them.”
Harsh also saw a decline in the number of students in his most recent production. He explained that his shows usually have an average of 15 to 20 students, but this most recent production of “Kairos Komodia (A Time for Comedy)” only had a cast of six students.
Emma Nakopoulos is a sophomore, performing in her first production at HCC. Like Cunningham, she prefers having audience members in the theater, but she believes the pandemic has presented a new opportunity to reach more audience members than just the ones seated inside the theater.
“You can see the audience’s reactions and interactions and you can interact with them. And you can hear whenever somebody thinks something is funny or somebody is sad or somebody is crying,” Nakopolous said. “And with the live stream, you can’t really hear that. But with the live stream, a bunch of other people gets to see it that would not be able to make it.”
Hagerstown Community College will be putting on a production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in April. For more information about the next production, please visit the Kepler Theater website.