Stan State Amphitheater

Many theater enthusiasts await the return of live performances at the amphitheater at Stan State. (Signal Photo/Kimberly Horne)

As 2021 slowly comes to an end, the future for theater and performing arts at Stanislaus State looks bright.

When Stanislaus County went into lockdown back in March 2020, plays that were in production had come to a halt or postponed until further notice. Amongst these is Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which may open sometime during this year or at the beginning of 2022, according to Carissa Shrum (senior, Theater).

Teaching and learning theater production have not been easy during the past 18 months, as new challenges have showed up during production.

“It’s been pretty crazy”, said Carin Heidelbach, an Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing at Stanislaus State’s theater department.

One way that the theater department kept the momentum going was by introducing a new medium: filming.

“The filming solved that crisis to a certain extent, although filming and doing theater are completely different mediums . . . but at the same time we wanted our students to be able to continue learning something valuable,” said Heidelbach.

While other factors such as migrating to Zoom classes and having assignments purely online has posed challenges, it did teach professors and students alike something new.

“People being able to participate in another place has been good,” Heidelbach said. “It also taught me about acting for the camera, which was something I had done before as an actor myself but hadn’t ever really taught to a certain extent.”

“We did a lot of shifting to a film medium and I really enjoyed learning about it. I also learned that I take theater for granted, that we take for granted the ability to gather. And I think that’s really missing.” Heidelbach continued.

The lack of one-on-one instruction and the physical presence of directors and classmates is a reminder of better times. “Theater feels like home,” Shrum stated.

“There’s nothing that replaces being in the same room,” said Heidelbach.

Despite the hurdles and obstacles that the department has faced, they have stuck with it and have managed successfully. Students also think quite fondly of how the directors have taken it into their own hands.

“It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning,” said Shrum. “But the biggest thing is that they [professors] kept in touch. They had very good communication skills.”

As things have been gradually moving forward, students and staff may expect to see Stan State theater come back to what it once was very soon.

According to Heidelbach, there are currently discussions about audiences returning with mandates set in place. Masks, social distancing, and proof of full vaccination may be implemented to return to what many consider the new normal.

There is hope that as 2022 kicks off, the energy and charisma of the audience, theater students, and directors will prove invaluable once again as the experience in person has a drastic difference compared to a screen.

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