Southern Utah University is making new pandemic-friendly ways to continue theatrical performances. The play “Jerry Finnegan’s Sister” is the latest addition to the docket of shows being adapted to meet COVID-19 requirements.
“Jerry Finnegan’s Sister” is a comedy written in the ’80’s. It follows the story of Brian Dowd, who has spent the last 10 years of his life wrestling with unrequited feelings for his best friend’s sister, who happens to live next door. The play will open in February for Valentine’s Day.
Mallory Blue, senior theater education major and director of the show, said that despite having a two-person cast, the play has remained popular because it’s able to adapt as times change.
“It may be only a two-person play but it has so much heart,” Blue said. “I also love it because the two characters are so relatable no matter what background you are from.”
As the director of “Ghosts in the Machine,” which hit SUU’s stage in October, Blue has experience adapting to restrictions and making performances livestream friendly so the show can ‘go on.’ The modifications for the eight-person “Ghosts in the Machine” cast included masks, no touching, and a lot of filming.
“This show is only two people so there’s a lot less coordination,” Blue said. “[But] how do you portray the emotion of falling in love while still keeping everyone safe? That will be the challenge with this show.”
The seats will stay empty for the play, but audience members will livestream into the performance to watch virtually.
“We are going to try and experiment and see if we can have the actors look like they are closer than six feet apart when in reality they’re actually on opposite sides of the room,” Blue said. “I’m excited to experiment and be creative.”
A virtual theatre grant from the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance made this student-run and pandemic-friendly show a possibility.
“This grant was run by our department chair Brian Swanson because he wanted to provide more opportunities to do theatre safely during a pandemic where live traditional theatre is not possible,” Blue said.
Despite it being a small show, Blue hopes to make a big impact with the production. Part of this impact would be accomplished by creating educational opportunities with the local high schools.
“We want to try and have the high school students watch the show and even have a talk back (an informal discussion with the audience from the stage) with the cast and crew of the show,” Blue said. “This show demonstrates a really healthy relationship model which could be beneficial for students.”
Video auditions are open to all SUU students interested in theater and are being accepted until Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. Spots are open for both cast and production team members. To submit an audition video or get more information, visit the audition website.
Story By: Larissa Beatty
Photo courtesy of Mallory Blue