All the world’s a stage, Shakespeare said. Even, according to the St. Francis Borgia theater department, the computer screens in audience members’ homes. The department just wrapped its first-ever virtual play, “The Internet is Distract—OH LOOK A KITTEN!” written by Ian McWethy. There were two performances with 163 tickets claimed in total and an additional performance for elementary schools.
The project was intended from the beginning to be virtual. Borgia students always put on a play early in the year for sophomores and freshmen to get acclimated to the department, and no one wanted COVID-19 to interrupt that.
The cast rehearsed in-person at first so they could meet the team, and then rehearsals went online. The students practiced every afternoon Monday through Thursday leading up to the show.
The student director, Gretchen Lampe, a senior, said she has been involved since her freshmen play and loved getting to be on the other side as a leader.
“You’re more like a mentor,” Lampe said. “It’s interesting to know what it was like for the upper classmen when I was that age.”
Stage manager Lucy Banion, a junior at Borgia, said stage-managing without a stage meant being able to adapt to different challenges. It was more about technology troubleshooting and less about blocking. For example, Banion had to be on standby with the script ready to read lines if the Wi-Fi dropped.
“It was totally different than in the past,” Banion said. “It was relieving to see it all come together.”
The students did get help from their teacher, Tim Buchheit, who has been at Borgia for 25 years. He was in a virtual play over the summer with the local Riverside Players and had some exposure to the unique challenges virtual theater brings.
The play was also special because it was Buchheit’s first play back after taking a leave of absence last year for health reasons.
“You never know how much you’ll miss it until it’s gone,” Buchheit said. “The students are so amazing and generous, I couldn’t wait to get back and be with them.”
The group is already planning its next production, which will feature multiple casts of two actors and one muscian. The audience will attend in small groups and actually follow the performers to different locations in the school.
“We have an amazing theater director (in Buchheit),” Banion said. “Because he’s back this year, we will not miss these shows.”