Theater at Carleton in the Time of COVID-19

18 October 2020
By Amanda Mosborg
Carleton’s Experimental Theater Board (photo by Lydia Cochran)

Happy Midterm Break!

As many of you know, English and Theater are closely related. Need any evidence? Just look to William Shakespeare. This week at The Miscellany, we’ve been thinking about how theater at Carleton has changed in the time of COVID-19. To get our questions answered, we interviewed Lydia Cochran (’21), a History and Theater double major and one of the Presidents of the Experimental Theater Board (ETB).

The Miscellany: Will there be a Theater Department (Players) show this term? 

Lydia: There will not.

The Miscellany: What about student-led theater? 

Lydia: Starting ETB right this term was difficult because the college was still deciding what was safe for us to do. Eventually, it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to have any live performances indoors. Little Nourse, our 96-seat black box venue, is lacking in air flow, and although the Weitz Black Box seats considerably more people, it is just too risky. We considered outdoor options, but we weren’t able to get things going in time to beat the cold weather. We hope to facilitate Shakespeare in the Park in the Spring.

The Miscellany: Sounds like you are still in the planning stage, then. Who are the other planners, and what do you have in mind for Winter Term?

Lydia: Usually, Sophia Franco (’21) and I meet to lay out a few ideas, then we assemble with the entire board. ETB serves as an umbrella organization for several other performance-oriented groups including the Technical Theater Team (TTT) and the Student Musical Theater Board (SMT). So far, we know that we want to avoid in-person, indoor shows for at least one more term. Instead, we are planning a student playwriting workshop.

The Miscellany: Sounds fascinating! Has ETB ever organized something like that before?

Lydia: ETB normally has more of a gatekeeper role. We aid directors in getting their work funded and cast. However, COVID-19 is pushing us into a role in which we create more, rather than oversee, opportunities for artists on campus. This playwriting workshop will most likely be an online event — less of a performance and more of an opportunity. This was intentional; to avoid disappointment, we want to start a new tradition, not perform under less than ideal circumstances. Like I said, rehearsing over camera isn’t as easy.

The Miscellany: Do you think you’ll get a lot of interest in this event?

Lydia: Yes! There are many student playwrights in the freshman class who have expressed their excitement. We are also hoping to recruit some attendees from the English Department and Off the Cuff, the campus storytelling club. We were initially thinking that a workshop would be the best format for this event, but have also considered hosting a playwriting competition. As a member of ETB and Theater Department SDA, my goal is to keep up the excitement for art on campus. 

The Miscellany: Good luck, and thank you!