Acting junior Bethany Mejorado and other students never returned to the stage after spring break in 2020, but last week, the Mainstage Theatre was once again filled with both actors and audiences.
The Maverick Theatre Company presented its first mainstage play of the 2021-2022 season Nov. 10 to 14. During the pandemic, the Theatre Arts Department continued their performances through livestreams but without a live audience. The company performed Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, which explores the effects of technology and how it both isolates and connects us.
Felicia Bertch, head of the Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program and assistant professor of instruction, said the in-person play was welcomed.
At first, everyone in the production was worn out after their in-person rehearsals, since people got used to being online, Bertch said.
“We were exhausted, but it was such an exhilarating kind of exhaustion,” she said. “It was the exhaustion of like, ‘I'm in-person, being socially engaged close to other people.’”
Mejorado, who performed as a part of the ensemble, said this was her first time acting in front of an audience since she was a high school senior in 2019.
The live audience factor didn’t hit her until opening night, she said. When their shows were virtual, the actors didn’t know how their performance was coming across, so it was hard to keep the energy up.
Bertch said members would perform for each other during rehearsals so that took the shock out of seeing the audience, but the energy and the excitement of an audience on opening night can’t be replicated.
Acting senior Savannah Lyons said the return to the stage was bittersweet because it’s her last show as a senior, but also it’s her return to in-person plays.
“I thought it was a really, really great opportunity to be able to be back in person and do what actors want to do in front of people and experience that feeling together,” Lyons said.
Bertch said the challenge for virtual shows was having the performers connect with the audience.
Virtual audiences would have their cameras off or the show would be pre-recorded, so the actors would have no idea if their performance was reaching the other side of the screen, she said.
Dialogue timing was difficult during virtual shows because of computer lag, Mejorado said. Actors needed to start their line before the other person’s speaking part was finished.
“A big part of acting is reacting, and we had to react to something that wasn't complete yet,” she said.
Mejorado feared that someone in the cast would get sick during rehearsals, so she was shocked on opening night that everyone made it to the end without complications.
Masks were recommended for the team during production, she said. Everyone took that into consideration. Even students who don’t normally wear masks in class wore them during rehearsal.
“It felt nice knowing that, you know, a big portion of the people in our department were concerned about the same thing and concerned for each other,” she said.
Lyons said she was anxious to come back to UTA and perform with a large cast of 25 for Love and Information. Despite all the worry, she was getting to do something she loved and was separated from.
Mejorado said she felt happy when the lights illuminated the stage and she saw the audience. It felt surreal seeing people give a standing ovation and clapping.
“At the end of the day, as a performer, all that really matters is that you enjoy yourself and you would make other people enjoy [themselves],” she said.