Actors in a virtual performance

Virtual theater, take a bow: Three-show run entertained audiences, reinforced spirit of live productions

This is the final installment of a GVNext series following the virtual production of 'The Revolutionists'

Actors performed alone in separate rooms, juggling props and lines and their marks and costume adjustments and a constant awareness of a webcam setup. 

Production team members monitored from separate areas, ensuring the quality of the livestream performance.

Everyone may have had separate stations during the virtual performance of "The Revolutionists" by Lauren Gunderson, but the collaborative art form of theater was never more evident.

The audience saw a performance where actors conversed as if in the same room, handed each other objects as if standing next to each other and told the compelling story of four strong women during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror.

Actors get ready for their performance

Actor putting on makeup while wearing a mask
An actor puts on part of her costume.

Karen Libman, production director and professor of theater, shared one of the best compliments she received, from a theater colleague: "It was the first time I felt like somebody had used technology to make theater as opposed to filming something."

The vMix technology for live streaming was complex and Libman said it took a lot of time to learn its intricacies as well as what equipment worked best with it. Libman credited Chris Mahlmann, the technical director for theater, for his willingness to learn the technology and best practices, allowing the production to happen.

In the end, there was only one significant technological glitch, on opening night. While the audience saw a specially made slide saying there were technical difficulties, Mahlmann dashed from his room on site to address the problem, which turned out to be an overheated computer, Libman said.

Production team members check the technology for the show.
Production team members check the technology for the show.

Looking ahead, Libman said plans call for members of the production team to participate in a virtual college theater festival; several of the students will have an opportunity to compete for scholarship money.

As she reflects on the virtual production experience, Libman said she is thrilled and grateful for the work of all involved. She also is glad that during a challenging semester for students, working on this production gave them a bright spot.

"By doing this, we gave our students not only an opportunity to exercise their creativity but a chance to hope and to have that hope come to fruition," she said.

The students also expressed their gratitude at having the opportunity to work on a theater production, no matter the format. They were proud to show their personal resilience and the resilience of theater.

"Theater has always been beautiful that way, it has always persevered through whatever has tried to stop it," said Alex Coy, the production's stage manager who is majoring in theater and English literature. "And theater people are always great at pushing through."