Southeast Missouri State University’s students in The Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance will have the opportunity to perform in a new medium when “The New Normal: A Collection of Short Plays” streams in November.
“The New Normal” will stream Nov. 5-15. “The New Normal” replaces “Metamorphoses” in the Top of the Marq and Commerce Bank Theatre and Dance Series.
The performances will ground audiences in the socially-distanced, masked COVID-19 reality of today, said Kitt Lavoie, assistant professor of theatre and director of “The New Normal.”
The scheduled content streaming event will feature seven 9-to-12-minute plays that will be recorded in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre at the River Campus in a multi-camera setup. The plays each focus on people grappling to keep the things they value most — loved ones, financial stability and their dignity — from disappearing from their lives.
The format of pre-filmed shows allows for smaller rehearsal sizes and fewer people waiting backstage, Lavoie said. He wanted to create an experience for audiences and student performers that worked creatively around COVID-19 rather than be limited by it.
“We can do three-person plays; that makes things safer,” he said. “We can do plays where people are masked; that makes things safer. We can do something where it’s filmed so no audience has to come into this space, but they can just watch it at home; that makes things safer. When you put all those things next to each other, it’s actually a pretty cool project.”
The plays are all about long standing relationships that have been put to the test, Lavoie said.
The plays are: “Anyway” by Jennifer Curfman; “Bank & Trust” by Lavoie; “Empty Handed” by Katelin Wilcox; “Dirty Birds” by Jenny Kirlin; “Stay” by Jenny Kirlin; “Super Lucas” by Jennifer Reichert, executive assistant in the Office of the Provost at Southeast; and “Two Birds” by Jerzy Gwiazdowski.
“I hope audiences get that short plays are really exciting,” Lavoie said.
Lavoie said he also hopes the shows provide audiences “a real sense of empathy.”
“I don’t think there are any plays where there’s a clear bad guy,” he said. “All of them are just plays about people who want to be with each other, whether as a romantic relationship or a friendship or a business relationship, but they also want things that are incompatible with being with the other person. There are so few bad people out there, and what interests me about all these plays is that they’re about good people who are drawn into conflict with each other.”
In a moment when society is battling COVID-19, Lavoie said “The New Normal” speaks to how people navigate disagreements. People often take a man-versus-nature conflict and create a man-versus-man conflict, he said, “because that’s the conflict we know how to have.”
“We can’t yell at the virus,” he said.
Not only is “The New Normal” an important message for audiences today, but Lavoie said it provides students with a unique opportunity to try a new performance medium. It also emphasizes the importance of flexibility and adaptability for students entering the professional world, he said.
“We can teach you how to act,” Lavoie said. What isn’t teachable, he said, is the ability to roll with unpredictable situations.
“That’s a part of this life that you’re training for,” Lavoie said. “That stuff happens, and you need to be able to plan ahead.”
Students will also get the chance to learn how to edit films in real-time by cutting across multiple cameras as the performers act out each play. The Department of Mass Media provided the cameras and other television equipment for “The New Normal,” and the director said he is hopeful that this could be the first of more film and television projects to come.
The 2020-2021 Top of the Marq and Commerce Bank Theatre and Dance series at Southeast will stream “The New Normal” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5-7 and Nov. 9-14, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 7-8 and Nov. 14-15. This production contains adult content.
Streaming shows are on sale now and can be purchased at www.showtix4u.com/event-details/39651. Tickets may also be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling (573) 651-2265, or online at RiverCampus.org.