Photo: The Seminole State traveling theatre troupe has taken the virtual stage with “Check, Please,” which will be the first production available for view in the Zoom play series.
When the coronavirus pandemic caused colleges and schools to close their physical facilities and transition to online learning in March, the well-planned academic year was suddenly fraught with uncertainty. While all professors at Seminole State College of Florida were making adjustments to continue classroom instruction online, for Theatre Professor Niki Salamon, figuring out what to do for students in her acting classes, where performance is key, was priority one.
Salamon had recently created Seminole State’s first ever traveling theatre troupe with students in her special topics class. The students would use their class time for rehearsals and then perform for students in Seminole County middle and high schools. They had nine bookings, but were able to complete just three performances before the public schools closed their doors in response to COVID-19.
“The students were bummed, of course!” Salamon said. “I wanted to keep the live element of the performance aspect of the class. Since then, we have been using Zoom to make the transition from stage to remote. The students were already rehearsing “Check, Please” so it made the most sense to start with this one.”
“Check, Please” will be the first performance in the Zoom play series, which Salamon hopes to make a weekly event. “Check, Please,” a one-act play about the hilarious adventures of blind dating, was written long before the advent of social media and online dating, but Salamon says it still appeals to today’s audiences. “The text holds up when we change the setting from a restaurant to online dating,” she said. It works gloriously! We are using Zoom as our actual setting!”
To bring the show to the virtual stage, the performance was recorded in Zoom. The characters in “Check, Please” appear two at a time in each scene, which Salamon says made recording easier. “I didn’t need to record everyone at one time,” she said. “Very much like the online dating experience, the students ‘popped in’ to rehearse. We discussed how to make it all make sense with settings.”
For Salamon, making the transition to an online setting wasn’t just a requirement to help her students complete the course; it was driven by the students’ desire to perform.
“It’s what we do. We have to be creative,” Salamon said. “The arts are so important. It would be a disservice to the students if we didn’t continue. The students we have are super creative and motivated. Their want and desire to do it is what guides me. It’s not that they have to do it; they get to do it.”
The students’ recorded performance of “Check, Please” will be available to view for free on the Center for Fine and Performance Arts website April 29 at 7 p.m. In lieu of tickets, viewers who want to watch the performance can request access by commenting on the pinned post on the Center for Fine and Performing Arts Facebook page.
Moving forward, Salamon says they will offer live performances of students’ original plays, short published one-acts, musical theatre and other submissions via Zoom. They’re also working on how to give other members of the theatre crew, such as set and light designers, an opportunity as well.
“There are a lot of different things we want to do,” she said. “We already had to reinvent ourselves once with not having a theatre [building G, which houses Harriett’s Theatre on the College’s Sanford/ Lake Mary Campus, has been closed since May 2019 after discovery of structural damage to the building], so we’re just doing it again. Nothing is stopping us. That’s for sure!”
- When: April 29, 7 p.m.
- Where: Online viewing via Zoom
- Tickets: In lieu of tickets, viewers may request access by commenting on the pinned post at facebook.com/seminolestatearts.
- Cost: Free