When Missouri S&T took preventative measures to combat the ongoing global pandemic, many feared programs like the performing arts would take a large hit both in the classroom and on stage. Instead, S&T’s theater program continues to thrive, and the hits keep coming.
College students throughout the country are struggling to find a sense of normalcy, says Taylor Gruenloh, assistant teaching professor of theater at S&T. One outlet for S&T students is the continuation of rehearsals and performances.
“The students at S&T have adapted to performing on Zoom as well as they’ve adapted to everything else during the pandemic,” says Gruenloh. “They don’t let anything phase them – they want to tell stories, they want to be part of communal activities, they want to be creative and support one another. That doesn’t change simply because we have to be online now.”
Missouri S&T theater students have also joined the “No Shame Theatre” stage performance movement. These productions are open to anyone in the community, and Gruenloh says that they can be a therapeutic outlet for people who crave creativity.
“For our ‘No Shame’ performances, the innovations of performing online have grown month by month during this pandemic,” says Gruenloh. “People are utilizing new tools, like video filters, sound sharing, screen overlay grids or video delay in new exciting ways.”
Performing remotely hasn’t been without problems for students. Actors are used to immediate audience feedback, and the absence of laughter or applause means the performers have to be confident despite the lack of response. S&T’s “No Shame Theatre” performances have used chat systems extensively to incorporate audience reaction. And Gruenloh says that all of these changes and adaptions are making students continue to grow and learn as actors.
“The world hasn’t stopped, so neither has our need to say things about how we’re effected by the world around us,” says Gruenloh. “True theater creation is simply taking an experience that has happened to us, turning it in to a metaphor, and then showing it to people to remind them they aren’t alone. Theater always adapts.”