First Virtual Theater Performance in Books | Thomas Nelson Community College

First Virtual Theater Performance in Books

November 5, 2020
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For Michael Sundblad, there were no opening-night jitters for Thomas Nelson’s performance of “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” in late October. He wasn’t worried about an actor suffering an injury or forgetting to make an entrance. He knew a prop couldn’t go missing at the last minute.

“It was all locked in, which is not the way I’m used to working,” said the chair of the Performing Arts Department.

That’s because it was a virtual performance filmed through Zoom after the coronavirus pandemic forced changes in the show, which originally was to be held in the Mary T. Christian Auditorium in April. Instead, director Dana Margulies Cauthen filmed the show in Zoom, with each actor at a different location. Sundblad then edited the videos and added music. The show was posted online, and available for viewing the weekend of Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

Sundblad said there were 71 individual streams, but doesn’t know total viewership.

“We don’t know if (each time it was streamed) that was watched by a single person or a group of 10. We have no idea,” he said.

He said if two or three people watched each stream, the total attendance would have been about 200, which is about what he expected.

“We told the license holder that we likely wouldn’t have more than 100 streams, so we were pretty close to that number,” he said.

That 200 total is about half of what would attend a play in person.

“But again, we don’t know how many people were watching each stream,” he said. “So we may have had a similar attendance to a normal play. We don’t know how many people were around each screen.”

As for Sundblad’s opening night, it was much more relaxed, even though in the afternoon he was on the phone with the box office company working out final details.

Right at 5 o’clock, I downloaded a stream and made sure it was working right, made sure the closed captions were working,” he said. “And then I had some stuff I had to do so I put it away for a while, and then around 7, I sat down and watched it, beginning to end.”

While he had seen it multiple times already because of his editing work, he said “it was fun to broadcast it to a huge television, hear it in stereo and see it on the big screen.”

As with all performances, there are things he would have changed and things he would do differently next time. That is if there is a next time for a virtual performance. He hasn’t decided yet on the next performance, or what form it will take.

Once the dust settles on everything, we’ll start talking about what we might be able to do,” he said. “It also depends on what happens with the virus. We’re trying to find a show that would work either online or in-person so that if we plan for one format we could easily switch to the other.”

The show was available for streaming only Oct. 30-Nov. 1, but the College’s Press Play studio produced a podcast with the production staff of “She Kills Monsters.” Listen to it at https://tncc.edu/virtual-studio/podcasts.