“The show must go on” has existed for centuries in show business, indicating the fact that a production will continue its planned course no matter what the future holds. The recent pandemic and subsequent quarantine has certainly put the phrase to the test for Canisius College’s Little Theatre Club. However, if there’s one thing the club has shown, they will honor the phrase and their commitment to one another despite the many curves that have been thrown in their path.
Previously scheduled to have been performed last weekend in the Marie Maday Theatre, Sam Bobrick’s Are You Sure? was to be Little Theatre’s final show for the spring semester and 2019 – 2020 school year. Due to the circumstances, rehearsals were discontinued in March and Are You Sure? was cancelled when it was officially declared that the remainder of Canisius’ spring semester was to be solely online. Of course, the director, Eileen Dugan, and cast were as equally disappointed as they were uncertain for the future of a club that relies heavily on a hands-on approach.
Nevertheless, fervent collaboration among the Executive Board and a strong familial bond within the club itself resulted in the creation of clever ways to continue to engage members with one another virtually, as well as preserving the thespianic magic outside the realm of the Marie Maday Theatre. Thus, in addition to video-chatting with each other to read scripts, play games and still have their biannual talent showcase event (Studio X), Little Theatre has decided to virtually rehearse and perform Rabbit Hole by David-Lindsay Abaire.
When asked about the process of launching such a project, Little Theatre’s president, junior Claire Bingaman, explained, “Richard Kennedy from Student Life had watched a table-read of a show he found on YouTube. After seeing it, he invited our club to do one as well, in hopes of giving us some way of putting on a performance in place of Are You Sure?. It happened through a lot of emails and calls with Eileen, who was going to be directing. A lot of it was her–– she’s incredible!”
Rabbit Hole, which centers on a family coping with the heartache and stress of losing a loved one, was strategically chosen due to its dialogue-heavy nature.
“I prefaced Eileen to maybe choose one we couldn’t normally do,” Bingaman said. “She had full control of what play we chose, and she did pick this one mostly based off of the fact that it’s highly centered around dialogue and has very little ‘action scenes,’ per sé.”
The story follows the character of Becca, played by Bingaman, her husband Howie, played by senior Ethan Wood and various members of their family and community, as they navigate their relations with one another amid a rather tumultuous time in their lives.
Wood, who will be performing in his final Little Theatre production with Rabbit Hole, reflected on the aspects of the show that undoubtedly make it stand out compared to his previous experiences.
“I’ve certainly never done anything like this before,” Wood admitted, who also serves as Little Theatre’s treasurer. “I don’t think I had ever really even video-chatted before quarantine. It’s difficult to act without the other people in front of you, without the ability to respond to their movements. Over Zoom, you really have to focus on selling the performance through your voice as we can’t really use body movements. It’s tougher to get into character when I’m sitting at my computer.”
Nevertheless, there are certain qualities of acting virtually that allow for a bit more leeway that an actor typically wouldn’t have while performing onstage.
“Acting virtually does take a certain pressure off of you that is inherently present when acting on a stage. It’s much easier to tone out the fact that people are watching you,” Wood said. “I got into character by mainly focusing on my voice and how I speak the lines in a believable way. It’s like when you lose one sense and the others become heightened. I put all of my focus into speaking the lines without having to physically act them out.”
Wood has been a member of Little Theatre since his freshman year, having first graced the stage in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 2017 (also helmed by Dugan).
“I want to thank LT for being the lifeline I needed when I was a scared freshman and for giving me most of my favorite memories of college,” Wood said. “I’m really going to miss the club but I know it’ll be in fantastic hands.”
Thus, while it may not be the conclusion to an undeniably successful year that anyone could have guessed, Little Theatre has ensured that the show will go on. Albeit, online.
Little Theatre would love for you to attend their reading of Rabbit Hole that will be streaming on their Facebook page on Friday, May 1 at 6 p.m.
Link to the club’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/canisiuslittletheatre/