Morehead State University Theatre students have come together to present its latest production in an unconventional way after the university canceled all public performance by the School of Creative Arts.
MSU Theatre’s production of “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” will be presented as a free performance online via the WebEx and Zoom video conferencing apps. The first performance will be offered for MSU students and faculty on WebEx at 7:30 p.m. April 23. A performance for friends, family and the public will be offered on Zoom at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24.
“In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play” centers around a young doctor in the late 1800s who is obsessed with the marvels of technology. His wife eavesdrops in the next room while her husband uses innovative and provocative treatments on his female patients that leads to satisfied patients and recurring appointments.
Becky Earehart, a senior from Tollesboro and the play’s student director, said she was honored to be one of the MSU Theatre’s student directors for 2020 and was directing the play as part of her senior capstone project. She started to hear rumors the week before MSU’s spring break that students might not be coming back for two weeks after the break, according to a news release. She sped up the process and finished the stage blocking for the show before students left for spring break.
However, in the following weeks, the University made the decision to move to online instruction and close to the public for the rest of the spring semester to mitigate the risk of the novel coronavirus.
“I was devastated when I heard that MSU would be going online for the rest of the semester. Of course, I was glad we were taking the necessary precautions and stopping the spread of the virus, but this was my senior year and now, it was just sort of fizzling to an end,” she said in the news release.
Earehart said she thought about canceling the show, but when she thought about how much work her fellow cast and crew members put in and how much they were able to achieve in a short time, she decided the show must go on with a decidedly different approach.
“A switch flipped. Instead of being sad about what couldn’t be, our team needed to move forward, be inventive and create a new way to showcase this story and our actors’ amazing ability to tell it,” she said.
Earehart began researching ways to keep as much of the original design as possible in an online format. She discovered Paper Theatre, which was popular in the 1880s and was also around during the period when the play was set. Set designer and Earehart’s roommate Caleb Lunsford, a senior from Harrodsburg, worked with her to make a paper set that resembles the original set, along with paper representations of the characters that have costumes like the originals designed by costume shop supervisor Becky Scott.
“Creating a paper theater is very similar to creating a model box for your scenic designs, and an opportunity to create something artistically awesome,” Lunsford said, who also plays Leo Irving in the production. “As an actor, I realized we were doing something so unique, as well as intimate. So, in other words, it was an awesome chance to grow. As a thespian, and representative of MSU's department, I realized we could all create an innovative, unique and individual experience that may be new to so many.”
Also, stage manager Atlanta Boggs, a senior from Argillite, will move the characters on and off stage and put them in their approximate locations. The production will also be utilizing the original sound design Haleigh Maines, a junior from Mt. Sterling.
Earehart said they are currently in Zoom rehearsals and they are going exceptionally well.
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