For San Jacinto College's Central Campus Theatre and Film Department, performance is vital to success. With the onset of COVID-19, the program had to get creative to continue instruction.
"We weren't allowed to be on campus, much less invite an audience to perform to," said Dr. Jerry Ivins, theatre and film professor. "We weren't sure what we could do with a practicum course or if it would happen at all."
Theatre practicum courses emphasize technique and procedures, with experience gained hands-on in play productions. However, after many discussions in 2020, it was decided that theatre practicum for one semester would become a film production course.
"We each wrote monologues about what 2020 has meant to us," said Ashley Yudiche, theatre student. "Some were emotional, others funny, but each were unique to who we are and our own experience."
The students chose the top three monologues to film, ranging in topic from riots and COVID-19 to more personal issue like caring for a sick loved one or missing once-in-a-lifetime moments like high school graduation. The group then cast, filmed, produced, and directed the single-scene monologues as part of their assignment.
"We shot the monologue scenes with one actor in the center of the auditorium to ensure social distancing," said Brian Hamlin, theatre professor. "The students learned how to frame and shoot standard shots as well as more complicated set-ups."
In addition to the film experience, students also had to learn new technology. Though the theatre department had some older video equipment, they found that their cell phones took higher-quality video than some of the larger, older cameras.
"The cameras we have are out of date and don't have as much data storage capacity as modern cell phones," Ivins said. "Our students had to learn how to optimize audio and lighting using smartphones."
The project was an inventive solution to a unique COVID-19 problem, allowing theatre students a creative outlet while still writing and performing in an altered way.
"It was a learning experience for me," said Maggie Jordan, theatre student. "Figuring out what equipment to use and working with my iPhone and tripods was interesting. At first the cinematography was rough, but I think we got better over time."
Ivins credits the project as the "most original work we've ever performed."
The project, entitled "Our Sight is 2020!" will be screened in front of a live audience Friday, May 7, and Saturday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Powell Arena Theatre at San Jacinto College Central. Tickets are $10 per person, and seating is limited to the first 50 patrons.
To learn more about San Jacinto College theatre and film, visit sanjac.edu/theatre-central.