Student Directors Move Production Online Amid COVID-19

Foundations of Play Directing asks students to direct their own 15 minute scene, but students are changing their plans due to social distancing requirements.


John Wildeman

Most public parks are either closed or requiring that visitors practice social distancing

John Wildeman, Senior Editor

Student directors in The Foundations of Play Directing class had one day to find new rehearsal space when Montgomery College cancelled classes — and meetings at the college — on March 11, two days before spring break.

At first, the future directors had time to hold auditions on campus, the Monday before classes closed. Later they had to arrange call-backs because they could no longer use college space.

Call-backs are the step in the casting process wherein directors have actors return to read their parts with other potential players. Directors and actors use the step to feel out the scene and start to develop a plan for how to execute it.

Foundation of Play Directing is a course that culminates a 15-minute student directed scene, starring student actors. This semester’s class faced the unique challenge of meeting with their prospective actors in a common location, that was off campus and accessible to all participants.

Their solution was to meet at Potomac Woods Park on Friday March 13. The class, communicating via group text, agreed on this park after considering the distance of people’s homes and community libraries.

The park is on Dunster Lane in Rockville, about four miles from the MC campus. Actors and directors used ride-shares, car-pooling, and public transit to commute to the park.

Mirsa, one of the student directors, asked that her last name not be used. She said she was glad that the park was the final choice, as actor comfort was a major concern. However, her preference is to be on campus.

“Not having the space just makes everything harder,” said Mirsa.

She cited transportation, communication, and access to equipment as some of the challenges she is facing.

When stay-at-home orders commenced, the class was forced to further improvise. Auditions in the park gave way to zoom-meeting rehearsals as students continue to persevere through adversity.

Another student director, Layali A. said that due to her course load, this is her most important semester at MC. All of her classes are in Theater Arts. She says she intends to get as much out of the experience as possible.

“Our professor did offer us to opt out of directing a scene, but I am a very ambitious person and have decided to take on the challenge of directing a virtual scene,” Layali said via email.

In addition to the Directing class, Layali is also an actor in the Spring 2020 production, Our Museum of the Unforeseen Tragedy. The play is unconventional, and actually was meant to contain an entire virtual portion.

Layali expects the production to be staged virtually but the new platform will have many drawbacks, “The play was supposed to be in person and interactive. Now that we have been enclosed in these ‘Zoom boxes’, we won’t be able to play with the audience members as much as we would have wanted to.”

She adds that there are some advantages in how the play is written. “This show relies more on improv and timing…Yes, we had to figure out the timing of where each character was going to be placed, but that concept changed as soon as we became virtual.”

MC theater students are facing the challenge head on and using the experience to develop new skills.

“At least now I am more equipped when it comes to technology,” Layali reflected. “Moving everything onto an online platform is definitely something I can put on my resume; kind of like a silver lining, but still a pain.“

View an online preview of Our National Museum Of The Unforeseen Tragedy Thursday, April 16, 8 p.m. Online performances will be staged Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25th at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, April 26 at 2 p.m.

Check the Performing Arts Department website  for the virtual location and up to date show times.