Photo Cutline: The cast and director of Act I of the COVID Chronicles hold a virtual rehearsal.
By Keith Martin
(Boone, N.C.) – Appalachian State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance opens its virtual fall season on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. with The COVID Chronicles: Monologues Created During the Pandemic, an original series of fresh, original works created and performed by the university’s students.
The chronicles are presented free of charge (although donations are accepted) in four different “acts,” at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18, Oct. 2, Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, each s a free-standing episode live streamed via Zoom. Attendees can access each performance via a Zoom link on the department’s web page https://theatreanddance.appstate.edu/ 15 minutes prior to each performance.
This theatre event is inspired by the popular 24-Hour Plays productions in New York City.
As the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has brought an end to live theatre in the USA and Europe, performing arts organizations everywhere find themselves facing challenges to keep the arts alive. The Theatre and Dance department’s response: unique and contemporary monologues sharing student responses to COVID-19 in dramatic fashion, creating acts of theatre that are vital, timely, moving, and irreverent, documenting an unprecedented moment in history.
Introducing The Cast and Creative Team
The Appalachian production showcases the talents of as many as 67 different students, a number that includes 33 playwrights, 31 actors, and three student directors being mentored by theatre faculty members.
Assistant Professor Dr. Derek Davidson, who conceived the idea for the production, said he expects the student-written pieces to cover topics ranging from the national Black Lives Matter movement and the local movement, BlackAtAppState, as well as social distancing, face masks, online and hybrid classes and other changes from the pandemic.
Davidson said, “Student actors are always in need of new monologues, which are used in the theatre at auditions, callbacks, casting, and websites, etc. This process will give dozens of new pieces from which they can build their audition portfolios.” He noted that the ethnically diverse cast represents a number of different cultural communities.
On Friday, September 18, Professor Teresa Lee is directing Act I, the first series of monologues featured in The COVID Chronicles. Lee said, “This project is a wonderful example of how our talented theatre students are rising to the challenge of keeping our craft alive, and giving voice to the overwhelming effects of this pandemic through their lens.” Lee’s cast includes students Casey Burton, Mack DeBernardo, L.J. Faircloth, Kenzie Frysztak, Hayley Gladstone, Cielo Gomez, Alexa Nemitz, and Ally Shelton.
The COVID Chronicles Acts II and III are being performed under the direction of Associate Professor Derek Gagnier and Dr. Davidson on October 2 and October 16, respectively. Gagnier said, "This is an exciting opportunity for our students and faculty to explore current events while creating an artistic and compelling commentary on the state of our world." Gagnier will direct an ensemble that includes students Maddie Barrett, Lauren Burk, Connor Cordell, Elijah Golden, Daniel Herman, Percy Holmes, Tianna Monroe and Laura Pennachi.
Dr. Davidson’s company of actors for Act III includes Morgan Austin, Ben Foster, Skyler Geer, Jamie Haney, Gillian Quigley, Alex Rowland, Supriya Sinha and McEwen Thornton.
The final Friday night of The COVID Chronicles on October 23, entitled Act IV, will be created by student directors: Hannah Champion, a senior general theatre major from Youngsville, North Carolina; Cameron Drummond, a senior theatre design and technology major from Holly Springs, North Carolina, and Alexandra Pearce, a junior theatre education major from Greenville, North Carolina. Individually and collectively, these three students will direct a cast that includes fellow students Richard Barker, Alex Contianos, Riley Cullen, Mack DeBernardo, Megan Helton, Cielo Gomez, Gabrianne Ivy, Madison Mascorro, and Sophie Zapf.
Associate Professor John Marty is the lead theatre design faculty member in charge of the production with staff member Matt Tyson serving as technical director. Alex Koncsol, a senior theatre design and technology major from Charlotte, North Carolina, is serving as production coordinator for the entire fall season, as well as stage manager for The COVID Chronicles. Her production team consists of classmates Kaili Boyd, Nga Sze Chan and Meredith Shafer.
Want to Attend? Here’s How
These events are being offered free of charge and live-streamed via Zoom. Viewers may access each episode of The COVID Chronicles by going to the Department of Theatre and Dance website before each of the four performances, which begin promptly at 7 p.m. on September 18, October 2, 16 and 23.
In lieu of admission, contributions may be made to support the ongoing production expenses of the program via an online portal linked directly from the department website. Simply go to the “Give” link on the department’s webpage and enter a donation.
About the Department of Theatre and Dance
The Department of Theatre and Dance is one of seven departments housed in Appalachian's College of Fine and Applied Arts. Its mission is to facilitate transformative experiences for students and the public, which cultivate compassionate, creative and collaborative communities through theatre and dance. The department also offers coursework for integrated learning through the arts to the general university student population. Its dynamic co-curricular production program provides exemplary theatre and dance experiences to departmental students, the university community and the region.
About the College of Fine and Applied Arts
Appalachian State University’s College of Fine and Applied Arts is a dynamic and innovative group of seven academic departments, bringing together a variety of perspectives, experiences and real-world education to provide unique opportunities for student success. The college has more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate majors. Its departments are Applied Design, Art, Communication, Military Science and Leadership, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment, and Theatre and Dance. Learn more at https://faa.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls over 20,023 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio, and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.