The Show Must Go On


by Colbee Cunningham, Staff Reporter

The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every department on Simpson’s campus, posing unforeseen challenges to students and staff alike.

Among those most largely affected is Simpson Productions: a combination of the theatre and opera production companies. Making the most of an undesirable situation, the members of Simpson Productions have devised innovative ways to present each of their fall productions.

In order to comply with COVID-19 safety protocol, Simpson Productions has had to implement measures that a normal theatre would never even dream of doing. Actors will practically never come within six feet of each other, their facial expressions will be entirely masked and there will be no live audience, as all productions will be presented virtually. Given these changes, both students and staff have been forced to reinvent the ways in which they stage a successful production.

“Moving everything online has been really strange and interesting,” sophomore Tanner Striegel said. “It’s cool to see that we can still function during this difficult time, but everything from auditions to the performances is being done in a new way.”

While the pandemic has thrown a wrench in their original plans, Simpson Productions continues to demonstrate its unwavering resilience. In fact, students and staff alike have taken advantage of these unfortunate circumstances to improve their skill sets, experiment with new technologies and expand their scope as thespians. 

“I think we really are [making the best of a bad situation.] We are going to learn some new ways of doing things, and the things that we learn with filming and editing can always be incorporated back into live productions,” professor and director Mimi Kammer said. “It’s pretty creative and it’s a lot of fun.”

Simpson Productions will present three different productions this fall: an operatic fantasia entitled “Prospera’s Island,” a staged radio production of ‘A Christmas Carol” and a podcast dubbed “Festival of New Plays.” Each of the three productions come along with their own unique set of COVID-related challenges. 

Simpson’s rendition of “Prospera’s Island,” which is based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” chronicles the life of a conductor living in isolation, who is forced to confront her past when she finds herself in the eye of a torrential storm. Devised by Simpson faculty members Jennifer Nostrala and Bernard McDonald, the production will be displayed in a video compilation format, with scenes being recorded indoors, outdoors and on a green screen. 

Directed by Mimi Kammer, Simpson’s production of “A Christmas Carol” depicts a company of 1941 radio actors who gather together on Christmas Eve to perform Charles Dickens’ fabled story, bringing comfort to households in the midst of World War II. The production will be broadcasted as a filmed play, with all actors performing within their own plexiglass recording booth.

Simpson’s third and final production of the fall semester, the “Festival of New Plays: A Podcast,” consists of varying types of theatrical work presented in the form of a podcast. The performance features new plays written by both current Simpson students and alumni. 

All productions will be available for streaming on Simpson Productions’ Eventbrite page for a predetermined period of seven days, with tickets going on sale Monday, Sept. 14. “Prospera’s Island” will be available for streaming October 16-22, “A Christmas Carol” will be available Nov. 23-29, and the “Festival of New Plays” will be available Dec. 1-7. Tickets are free of charge for all patrons, but donations are encouraged. Prior to the week of the show, audience members will receive a link and a password to access the recorded productions.

“I hope that people in the Simpson community will still join us for these productions,” Striegel added. “Different does not always mean bad, and this is a very unique way for lovers of the arts to get their theatre and opera fix. Everyone involved in the productions is very excited to see the outcome.”