Virtual Circus

When school was canceled in early March, all school-related tournaments, sports practices, and performances were canceled as well, including the annual short play festival, Circus! However, Circus! directors are working to translate their plays into an online format. I met with Rose P. ’20, a director, to learn more about how her cast is adapting to this new environment.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Anya S. ’21: Could you remind me what your Circus! play is about?

Rose P. ’20: Yeah! I’m directing a play called Ribs by Hannah Wang, who was a senior when I was a freshman. It’s a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, and it includes the character of Lilith, a character from Jewish folklore. Ribs is a story about abuse; it’s a story about female empowerment; it’s a story about the origin story. The play is interesting to look at—and I’ve been talking to my cast about this—because Lakeside doesn’t talk about religion a lot. If you look at Ribs from a perspective of, “the play is changing the origin story,” then it’s a little bit anti-religious, because it takes this important story and criticizes it in some ways. But if you look at it through the lens of “this is a story about abuse told through the origin story,” then it becomes really complex.

AS: And how did you feel when you first heard Circus! was canceled?

RP: I think for me, I was definitely disappointed, but I was sadder for my cast. We had just gotten to the point where we had done a run-through of the whole play, and I could see that it was really good. They were just really starting to click and really starting to find their characters, and I would have loved for them to show that to an audience. But I’m really grateful for all the time that I did have with them; I think it was valuable for me as a person and as a director. And I’m also glad that I get to do Zoom calls with them—because this is way past when I would get to keep working with them if we were doing Circus!

AS: Could you describe how you’re transitioning your play from an in-person piece to a virtual one?

RP: Alban has really left it up to the directors. So I’ve gotten together with my cast over Zoom a few times, and we brainstormed how to honor the work we’ve already done and share that with the community in the best way possible. Currently, our plan is to make an audiobook-type-play, where we turn the stage directions into narration. I’m hoping that will work out. It’s definitely frustrating that we can’t have all the staging that we did in rehearsal, but all of the character work is still there, the way the actors say the lines is still there. I’m just really happy with the way we’re working on that.

AS: What goes on in those Zoom meetings?

RP: The first couple were mostly brainstorming, but we’ve also read portions of scenes and discussed how we want to translate those into narration. In between meetings, I adapted the play and clarified some lines as well. In our most recent meeting, we recorded the first two scenes, which I’m working on editing together. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we’ll record the rest, redo parts if needed, and then finish the whole thing!

AS: What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

RP: I’m definitely working on figuring out what’s the best way to record. Over Zoom is hard, because there’s a delay. Right now—and this was Elda K. ‘20’s idea originally—we put in headphones so we can still hear each other, and then we each record separately on our phones. That way, the audio quality is better, and we kind of have the timing. I’ve just been putting all those recordings on top of each other and trying to take out the spaces that come with the delay in Zoom.

AS: That sounds like a large time commitment. How long would you say you’ve spent on this so far?

RP: I would say, maybe in meetings, two hours, and then outside of that, another two hours. So not a ton of time, but I definitely feel that we’ve been making progress. And I think it’s fun!

AS: When do you think the Lakeside community can see your work?

RP: I don’t know exactly. I think, again, that will be up to the individual directors. I would hope to get a video sent out by about mid-May.