“Stage Door” performs to an empty theatre

Katie Fata

SOTA’s poster for “Stage Door”
Photo: IWU SOTA Instagram Page

After an unexpected, but successful, semester of filmed shows in the fall, IWU’s School of Theatre Arts (SOTA) has once again taken to the stage in an empty McPherson Theatre to present Stage Door. 

 

The actors and stage crew spent the last two months preparing to perform the show, not for an audience but instead for cameras being wielded by fellow students. The show will be available to view Mar. 12-14 on “Showtix4u,” the same platform SOTA found success with last semester. 

 

Stage Door, a 1936 stage play by Edna Ferber and George Kaufman, chronicles the experiences of a group of struggling actresses in New York City who stay together in a boarding house. 

 

Though many students were involved with shows last semester, new challenges were discovered by many throughout the process. Producing a show for a virtual audience changes the dynamic of the stage in many ways so actors and crew alike had to learn to work in new ways. 

 

“Aside from doing some background work in Chicago, this was my first time working with the camera. Instead of making sure we played to the audience, we had to be aware of where the cameras were at all times for the best shot,” sophomore Darraugh Griffin said. 

 

Assistant director and senior Gabrielle Ghaderi found the rehearsal process to be unique from a normal semester not just because it primarily took place on zoom, but also because of the limits a camera places on movement. 

 

“In a stage play, the actors are encouraged to use the entire space but for film, the movements have to be much more confined because the camera isn’t able to cover the entire space,” Ghaderi said. 

 

Ghaderi also noted that the process was fragmented for those involved as the entire play was never run through as one piece. In order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, rehearsals and filmed scenes took place in small groupings to limit the number of people in the theatre at a time. 

 

After a semester of testing the waters in terms of filmed content, the crew of Stage Door got to take some creative liberties with filming that they hadn’t been able to in the fall with the help of professor and director Tom Quinn. 

 

“Tom Quinn helped start IWU’s film program, so he took a very cinematic approach to this process which is different from how we filmed last semester’s shows, which were mostly wide shots,” Ghaderi said. 

 

Actors learned to adapt to the filming quickly, and many of them found themselves interested in opportunities for film and camera work. 

 

“I have done some film work in the past but this was a new experience because we were still on the stage,” junior Alexis Ries said. “Learning about the filmmaking process was one of the best parts.”

 

Griffin, who echoed her sentiments, enjoyed the filming aspects of the show so much that she signed up to be a part of the camera crew for SOTA’s upcoming Songs for a New World. 

 

“I’m excited to learn something new. This has taught me to be more adaptable and welcoming to change,” Griffin said. 

Stage Door, while logistically challenging, was also a comfort for those involved due to the relevant content. Stage Door gives a realistic insight into the ups and downs of the theatre industry but all of the women in the show stick with it because of their passion for acting. 

 

“Right now, when theatres are shut down, it’s hard to feel optimistic about post-graduation work in the industry,” Ries said. “But doing this show reminded me that we’re doing what we love, whether it’s for huge audiences or for four cameras.” 

 

Future SOTA endeavors this spring, Songs for A New World and a faculty-choreographed dance concert, will be produced in a similar fashion in hopes that the department will perform for live audiences as soon as it is safe. 

Tickets for Stage Door can be purchased here and the play can be viewed at any point in the forty-eight hours it is available for rent.