If you have seen last year’s productions of “The Cherry Orchard” and “Shakespeare in Love,” you are likely aware of the captivating talents of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT). For those who haven’t seen either play or are simply unaware of UConn’s theatrical presence, CRT is a branch of UConn’s Dramatic Arts that is in charge of theater production. It offers opportunities for drama students to utilize their skills and gain experience in professional theater as well as entertainment for audiences enthralled by the work of playwrights.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, organizations across campus have had to make notable changes to their initial arrangements for the coming semester, including CRT. They declared their plan for the fall in a press release on Monday which ultimately consists of online productions, causing MainStage plays to say a temporary goodbye to Jorgensen Theatre. Nonetheless, CRT is thriving with its intriguing virtual lineup.
The company has decided to open its fall production with “Men on Boats” by Jaclyn Backhaus. Based on a true story, the play takes place in 1869 and revolves around the expedition of 10 men traveling in four boats. Its comedic direction by Beth Gardner and her interesting decision to use an all-female cast makes CRT’s “Men on Boats” attractive to all audiences.
Stage images of CRT’s past performance of The Cherry Orchard. Photos retrieved via CT Repertory Theatre Instagram Page
“This production will run for nine performances Oct. 8-18, streamed live each evening across a dedicated Zoom platform,” the press release announced. “Virtual performances will be complete with background set graphics and costuming.”
It can be challenging for production companies to quickly adapt to the technological transition between on-stage and virtual performances, especially when it comes to set design. The fact that CRT is actually embracing the processes that come with online production, including “new technology, viewing frames and reimagining online delivery of live theatre” is impressive and admirable.
“new technology, viewing frames and reimagining online delivery of live theatre”
For their second fall production in November, CRT will also be utilizing the Zoom platform. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” adapted by Philip Grecian from the 1946 film, will be their first-ever radio play and is to be directed by UConn Professor of Vocal Training Jennifer Scapetis-Tycer.
“This production will be a pre-recorded performance, with eight opportunities to tune in via Zoom,” the press release states. “In this production, Director Scapetis-Tycer reimagines (through sound) this heart-warming story featuring a huge cast of characters complete with ‘commercials’ and a Foley sound artist.”
Like “Men on Boats,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” requires a very different approach to production. A play without visuals makes the roles of sound and audio design even more important, a task which CRT has surely taken upon themselves to achieve. The play also takes place during Christmastime, so its near-the-holidays performance dates make for a potentially cozy experience similar to listening to a winter bedtime story.
If you are interested in attending virtual performances or if the concept of a radio play allures you, tickets for both “Men on Boats” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are currently available to purchase on the CRT website or they can also be purchased by calling the box office at 860-486-2113. Despite the restrictive nature of a global pandemic, CRT is not holding back from offering online alternatives to a conventionally in-person activity, making audiences anticipate a beguiling fall semester.