W&M Theatre & Dance to Present Innovative Digital Fall Season
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
Courtesy of Jessi DiPette, William and Mary Theatre
WILLIAMSBURG, VA – August 18, 2020 –William & Mary’s Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance is not letting COVID-19 prevent them from creating theatre. The department will move forward with a fully digital Fall season that allows both the community and students to partake in the arts, even as theatres across the state remain closed.
The new season will feature two virtual plays, Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments and Citizen: An America Lyric, as well as two virtual dance concerts, all of which will either be live-streamed or edited into films.
Despite distancing restrictions and the inability to perform for a live audience, the directors feel that this new format is an opportunity to find new audiences and redefine what theatre can be.
“Going digital allows me to shoot Citizen as a short film. It will be shot on location on and around campus,” said Alise Larder, guest director for Citizen, “The digital platform completely opened a new creative box for me. My hope is that it will feel more intimate and tangible.”
Larder added that she feels the digital platform will allow the performances to be more accessible to viewers in and out of the Williamsburg area. All performances will be available for viewing at home, at the viewer’s leisure.
In addition to adapting the season to COVID-19 restrictions and the possibility of the actors being off-campus, the department has answered the student body’s call for a diverse season.
“This season is different from past seasons of William & Mary Theatre in that it centers BIPOC writers and artists for the first time in 53 years of institutional desegregation,” said director and professor Omiyęmi Artisia Green, who also acts as program director for Africana Studies at W&M.
Green also noted the department’s work with outside professionals. Four of the six resident directors are collaborating with alumni guest artists to direct the second show of the season, Hand’s Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments.
One of these alumni directors is Keaton Hillman, a 2016 graduate of the theatre program now working professionally in Richmond.
“I think getting to work with a guest artist is exciting because it’s an opportunity to form a connection with someone who is working in the industry outside of the bubble of The College,” said Hillman. “I was in their shoes not long ago, so in the creation of this piece, I hope it will seem more like working with a peer.”
While the department has long held a policy of color-blind casting, the Fall 2020 season goes a step further by featuring plays that challenge perspectives on race and showcase the talents of black actors.
“As a theatre artist and patron of theatre, I have always been drawn to pieces that speak directly to the moment we are living in. I specifically love hearing the stories of underrepresented and marginalized people and digging deeper into the significance of telling those particular stories and reflecting on their significance to our own lives,” said Hillman. “I think Hands Up does exactly that.”
The Fall directors all agree that the upcoming season is innovative and relevant, and hope that both the community and the students can learn from the performances and the process.
“I hope the students are reminded of their resilience and inherent creativity,” said Green. “For as we often say in this tradition, ‘The show must go on.’”
The Fall 2020 season for the William & Mary Theatre and Dance department is:
Citizen by Claudia Rankin, adapted for stage by Stephen Sachs. Directed by Alise Larder. Streaming September 17-20 Reaching Out & Leaning In: Explorations Through Dance I Streaming Oct 1-4 The New Black Fest’s Hands Up. Directed by Amanda L. Andrei, S. Lewis Feemster, Omiyemi (Artisia) Green, Keaton Hillman, Claire Pamment, and Elizabeth Wiley Streaming Oct 29-Nov 1 Reaching Out & Leaning In: Explorations Through Dance II Streaming Nov 5-8
Each performance will be streamed online. Digital Tickets are available for all performances online at wm.edu/boxoffice, by phone at 757-221-2674, or in person at the Kimball Theatre, 428 Duke of Gloucester Street, Tuesday-Friday from 2-6pm.