Loyola’s theater department gears up for masked fall shows

With the warrant mask still in place at Loyola, the theater department plans to once again present its 2021-2022 season in masks.

While this continues to present challenges for performance, the artistic director Sal Mannino said wearing masks encourages theater makers to be creative when working on shows.

Justin prescott, director and creator of the season opener “All in a Day’s Work,” said it takes getting used to not being able to see a performer’s face when he’s an actor. However, he said the masking “works in our favor” for his show because it is a movement-based piece without any lines or vocals that would be obscured by a mask.

Actors from both fall productions said the masks made the performance difficult.

Sophomore Jaylin Darby stars as Esther in “Intimate Apparel”, her second masked show in her time in Loyola. She said the masks force the actors to overexpress with their eyes and gestures.

She said that masking during a performance “can be a little tedious because the audience doesn’t see all the expressions on your face.”

Steven Pendleton, a sophomore theater arts student and a member of the ‘All in a Day’s Work’ ensemble, which uses he / they pronouns, said the respiratory support and connection with fellow members of the together are tough in a mask. However, Pendleton said they understand the need to continue to mask.

“The struggles actors go through working with masks are tiny compared to the risks that are present if we don’t use them,” Pendleton said.

However, this year’s season is no longer limited by social distancing measures. Last year’s productions were only able to accommodate audiences in a limited capacity and the actors had to maintain a distance of six feet from each other on stage. Mannino said privacy is once again possible on stage without these restrictions.

“It makes such a difference not having all six feet, especially from a training standpoint,” he said.

Mannino noted that the safety of the actors and the audience is always a top priority and wants to make sure that the department “takes care (of the audience members) as much as we are our performers.” He said the department is working to stay compliant and make the theater accessible to everyone in a safe manner.

Despite the continued masking and being forced to postpone the two fall shows for several weeks due to Hurricane Ida, the department is optimistic about the season ahead.

Prescott said it has been an honor to create a new piece of theater for the department.

“Intimate Apparel” director Sacha Grandoit said she was moved by the fact that stage performers love the craft enough to sit in a rehearsal space for hours while in masks.

Honestly, I find it so endearing that theater and art still survive, ”she said. “It’s quite endearing to watch a rehearsal of these talented actors who are in this show, giving all they have in a mask.”

Artists like Pendleton and Darby are thankful for performing during the pandemic. Pendleton said that working on “Everything in a Workday” was amazing because of how so invested everyone is.

“It’s really exciting and engaging to be in a room full of other artists who are just trying to put 110% into the movement they’re working on,” Pendleton said.

Darby supported Pendleton’s beliefs and said the artists creating “Intimate Apparel” are passionate about production.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to come together and watch the story unfold before our eyes and understand the journey of each character,” she said. Darby has called “Intimate Apparel” a work of art and hopes the public will tune in to it once it opens.

Grandoit encouraged audiences to see the show, noting how hard everyone worked on stage and behind the scenes to make it happen.

“We have talented actors who work really, really hard in the height of a pandemic, in the height of the mid-term,” she said.

Mannino believes that although the actors are still in masquerade, today’s world of theater is exciting.

“It feels like we are one step closer to normal, or the new normal, whatever it is,” he said.

The first show of the season, “Tous dans une jour de travail” takes place from November 11 to 20 at the Marquette Theater, followed by “Intimate clothing” from December 2 to 10 at the Lower Depths experimental theater. Tickets are on sale now.

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