‘Fefu and Her Friends’: Resilience through a computer screen

NAU Theatre’s performance of “Fefu and Her Friends,'' written by Maria Irene Fornes and directed by Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy, will be showing from March 2 to March 6.

This show is unique in that it is taking place completely virtually from rehearsal to performance.

The actors, director, programmer and stage manager shared their insight into what college theater is like today. 

Given COVID-19 and the uncertainty of maintaining health around others, junior Kelsey Brown, who portrays Paula in the show, said she feels very safe because she is in her own space.

Freshman Cassie Freeman, portraying Christina, said this new genre of storytelling came with a learning curve. 

“Zoom has a delay, so we all had to learn to adjust our reaction timing,” Freeman said. 

Another part of the show that needed to adjust with the format was costuming. 

Director Gutierrez-Dennehy explained that Jennifer Peterson, the show’s costume designer, had a vision of what the characters would be wearing and that the actors will be taking from what they have in their own closets. She added that this allows the actors to give input into their costumes and further connect with their characters.

The one missing factor, though, is the bond between the audience and the actor. 

Senior Karly Moyers, portraying Julia in the show, said the actors lose the face-to-face experience with the audience, but are now able to be seen by anyone who wants to watch from home. 

NAU Theatre’s perseverance and resilience is apparent. Still it makes one wonder, what about this show makes it relevant today?

Gutierrez-Dennehy explained the importance of the story and how its message coincides with today’s world. 

“The pandemic has highlighted a number of equality issues that make for really important conversations that we should be having right now,” Gutierrez-Dennehy said. “Especially with the correlation between mental health and the isolation the pandemic has caused.”

Junior Maia Engelthaler, Sue in the show, mentioned the actors have conversations after running through each scene to connect with one another both in and out of character. This is to aid them in bondingwith scene partners while being virtual.

Senior Carly Durrer, playing Fefu, also pointed out the actors are constantly in their environments, which makes it so much more real for them and makes it easy for the actors to give an honest performance.

Although, not everyone involved in the show is familiar with the new territory the virtual setting comes with.

Senior Bella Affronti is the programmer for the show. 

 “For this show in particular, I had to learn a whole new program to turn off screens when necessary,” Affronti said. “It’s a good thing to learn, to be more versatile in the workforce, in case a future employer wants to put on a virtual performance.”

Additionally, senior and stage manager Gabby Lux said it has been her first time stage managing on her own. 

“It has been a lot of seeing what’s been done and adapting,” Lux said. “The most important ideals throughout this process have been adaptation and patience.”

Indeed, college theater, in the broad sense, looks different nowadays. Yet, the cast and crew of “Fefu and Her Friends” were optimistic and passionate and ended the meeting by providing a quote from the show:  “Life is theater. Theater is life. If we’re showing what life is, can be, we must do theater.”