When the show cannot go on

Illustration by Shelsey Braswell

Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 and the cancellation of large scale events, theater has transitioned from racing through rehearsal to a complete stop. This pandemic is a rare circumstance that has turned “lights, camera and action” into “stop, wait and what.”

The NAU Department of Theatre was in the process of putting together a performance of Kate Hamill’s play adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” until the show was canceled due to COVID-19. Lots of design and technical work was put in and rehearsals were a quarter of the way complete, with the show set to open April 17.

Kathleen McGeever, the chair of NAU Theatre, was the director for “Sense and Sensibility.” McGeever has been working on the show for a year through preparation, collaborating with designers, auditioning and working with students to craft the show.

“[The cancellation] is huge because our classes are also our production. Productions are like our science lab and it's really hard to turn around on an academic side and try to figure out something that’s still performative,” McGeever said. “It’s also disappointing because of the work we did as a cast and the prework that we’ve put into it. This show is completely designed by our theater department. It's a lot of artistry and a lot of creative energy that has to stop for not just the actors, but for the stage manager and for all the design teams.”

McGeever said it is not just Broadway having to shut down and that regional theaters and concert venues have had to cancel all their shows. She said in Flagstaff, all the nonprofit and community theaters have closed, including the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.

Senior Emily Wood is a theater major who was cast as one of the main lead roles, Elinor Dashwood. Wood said the story is about two sisters choosing between love and security and them navigating being a woman in the era where they had limited rights. Wood said she was a big Austen fan when she was younger and went back to read the book for research.

“We were all still sort of finding exactly who these people are, which is why it’s so sad to see the show be canceled because I know we all have these great loves for our characters,” Wood said. “We put a lot of work into it and it is heartbreaking to know that is not going to be presented in a way that we would like it to be. NAU has provided me with a lot of opportunities that I don’t think I would have gotten at a different theater program. This show was a way for me to say goodbye to the program and it’s difficult knowing I can’t do that.”

McGeever said there is no way the cast and crew can meet to rehearse and perform, but that does not mean the show must stop. It just may have to go online.

With the currently available technology, the virtual world has become the main source of problem-solving. Although many of the details are still up in the air, with the chance that the project may fall through, those involved are attempting to take their last spring show of the semester online.

Senior Nickela Rooney is a theatre major and the stage manager for "Sense and Sensibility." Rooney has been working on the show since November 2019 and oversees a lot of the construction process.

Rooney said her jobs included running auditions, having meetings with faculty about design and rehearsal, overseeing assistant stage managers and keeping in constant communication with the actors. Rooney said they are in the process of working out details for an attainable production through Zoom, an online platform for remote video conferences and meetings.

“I feel a lot better knowing that we’re trying to do something. Spring break was not fun for me and a lot of people because of how quickly our show had been taken away and canceled, right after we had just finished staging it,” Rooney said. “Especially with this cast and crew, I think everyone is very willing to make it happen. I’m excited to try this online version. It will be a lot of work but it’s exciting and scary.”

The online version is still tentative, but students and faculty are working hard to give this show the spotlight.

The days ahead are going to be hard and disappointing for many. Ultimately, the show being canceled is a hardship that will pass. The dedication to it from students and staff is inspiring. Theater always lives on in the hearts of those who wish to bring it to life in the first place.