The show must go on: How WT’s Theatre Dept. adapted to virtual performances

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CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Theatrical performances have been one of the many industries heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the performances at West Texas A&M University.

Stephen Crandall, an associate professor of theatre at WT, said figuring out how to still have performances has been a challenge. The biggest being eliminating live audiences and moving to virtual and streaming performances.

“It’s been a real change for us. We’ve had to really learn how to adapt our performance for not only social distancing, but also cameras, and that ability to capture the performance, whether it’s live streamed or whether it’s recorded,” said Crandall.

He said they have done a lot of “learning on the fly” about live camera editing and recording editing.

Festival Cast / Courtesy WTAMU

Bradley Behrmann, the assistant professor of music and the music director for their upcoming show, said another challenge is having everyone together singing in a room.

“Having students gathered together to sing is is a risky activity,” said Behrmann. “During a pandemic, you know, singing is a super spreading activity. So this whole year, we have had to very much be monitoring the proximity of singers, we’ve been needing to monitor how much time they spend together, and to be creating ways that keep them safe, that keep everyone in the room safe. Especially getting into the performance, keeping everyone who’s going to be associated with the production safe at all times.”

Other precautions include daily symptom and temperature checks, masking throughout rehearsals, and being tested weekly.

“We’ve had to follow some pretty rigorous protocols, but it has for the most part kept us safe,” said Crandall. “We’ve been able to do, you know, production in a in a safer manner as we can given everything.”

As for performing with no audience, WT Sophomore Nolan Quintanilla, who has two other pandemic productions, said he was put back for a long time.

“I think it has been a challenge not having an audience, but it also has been a testament of like, what are we really doing this for? Who are we doing this for? Are we doing this for ourselves or for the people? They’ve learned that it really is something I’ve done for myself, and even the people that I’m doing the show with,” said Quintanailla.

Medley Cast / Courtesy WTAMU

Quintanailla shared an issues that happened in one of their first livestreamed productions:

“The very first time we did it, we started the show, got about 15 minutes into the show, and the stage manager told us to hold. We were all really confused, because we’re like, ‘Why? We’re live streaming,’ and apparently it had not been showing the entire time we’d been doing it. So they asked us to hold and we had to restart all over again. So that was insane, because like that would never happen in real life,” said Quintanailla.

From cast to production, everything was challenged.

“My process was basically the same, the only thing was I had to look at everything through a camera,” said Caitlynn Sandoval, WT senior and scenic designer, property designer, and video director for the production. “So I couldn’t just look at it, because in live audience, they’re just seeing it with their eyes. But it’s like through a camera now. So I have to look at everything through a camera. So when I painted something, I had to pull out my phone, look at it through a camera. So that was a pretty challenging thing to like, make sure the colors worked and like, you know, sometimes camera quality changes, like darkens or like lightened things.”

“The human eye does not discriminate as much as a camera, it’s much more forgiving,” said Angelo O’Dierno, an assistant scenic and lighting professor at WT. “So the [lighting] that’s built, and for one individual production there are 341 of them, all have to be watched through monitors and adjusted accordingly. that all is something that has to be taken into account when designing a show for the stage and now for live theater being done through a camera, it alters everything.”

With the challenges, the show must go on. The department is putting the finishing touches of its final production of the season, “The show must go on: How WT’s Theatre Dept. adapted to virtual performances“. It will be presented to ticketholders via video on demand (VOD) in two 48 hour performances.

“This is actually a recorded production … and our license requires that we do so, essentially, in one take. So there’s no editing of the performance, which I actually think gives the audience kind of that live performance experience,” said Crandall.

Hear more on what “The show must go on: How WT’s Theatre Dept. adapted to virtual performances” is about in the words of the team:

WT’s production of “The show must go on: How WT’s Theatre Dept. adapted to virtual performances” will feature two different ensembles. Both will be available for VOD.

The show is considered to be rated R for strong language.

Tickets can be purchased by clicking here. They are $15 for individuals and $30 for families. WT students, faculty, and staff are able to watch for free.

A 25 percent discount is available for those purchasing tickets to both casts; for a coupon, email

The performances can be watched at any time within the two-day run of each cast.

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