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Aaron Gates, an Ohio University fourth-year working toward his BFA in acting, sets up a tablet with a green screen in preparation for his zoom call as part of a rehearsal for Tantrum Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

Tantrum Theater finds new ways to perform amid pandemic

One of the things that makes live theater so special is the gathering together with people — both known and unknown — and watching a performance in real-time, taking place right before everyone’s eyes.

However, because of the pandemic, theater artists can’t do their craft as they’ve always practiced it; instead, they’ve adapted to socially distant formats. Tantrum Theater, the professional theater associated with Ohio University’s School of Theater, took its performances online.

When shows were first shut down across the country, Tantrum was working on Objects in the Mirror by playwright Charles Smith. The theater converted the full stage show to a radio play format due to the Ohio stay-at-home order. 

The show went well as a full audio production, Joshua Coy, interim producing director at Tantrum, said.

“We would have preferred to have been on stage, but that’s what we had to do,” Coy said. “Since then, everything has been about changing schedules and adjusting to the environment.”

Tantrum had to switch the next show it planned on doing — even though actors were cast and a director was brought in — to something that could be streamed online. Many shows cannot be recorded due to the performance rights associated with that show. 

Director ameenah kaplan found the play This is Not What I Expected When I Imagined a Republic. Tantrum worked with playwright Daria Miyeko Marinelli to adapt the show, adding in extra parts to accommodate the cast. 

Republic is a new play, Coy said. Marinelli’s three-segmented show follows the development of the U.S., challenges the mythologies of being a republic and a republican and how that has changed over time.

Like many of Tantrum’s shows, the production team and staff is a mix of OU students, faculty and industry professionals.

However, Republic will not be performed in a traditional setting but in each individual actor’s home, alone. Actors received an iPad and self-recorded their parts, synchronized with an earpiece so they match up with their scene partner. 

“I have to learn how to act without my partner being in the room with me,” Manda Neal, a third-year graduate student in the acting program who plays Long Horizon Dreamer in Republic, said. “I have to learn how to listen to them in my ear instead of having both physical and vocal, or, you know, a person standing in front of me. I can only hear them.”

The show has a video editor, Coy said, who brings together all the different parts into one cohesive production that will stream online Nov. 13. 

Tantrum originally started in Dublin, Ohio, where it was created to bring professionals work with OU faculty and theater school students.

When Tantrum moved to Athens, professionals came with it, Michael Lincoln, artistic director at Tantrum, said. Lincoln said OU President Duane Nellis specifically requested Tantrum move to the Athens campus and get involved. 

Recently, Tantrum partnered with Passion Works Studio for an improv workshop. It gave those involved a sense of fellowship and place for expression, Coy said. It also served as a fundraiser for Passion Works.

Tantrum helps show students the broad array of careers available in theater, Lincoln said.

“We have very traditional ways of thinking about careers,” Lincoln said. “It's like, ‘OK, I'm going to be an actor, and I'm going to go to New York, and I'm going to wait tables until I get my big break.’ There's so many other ways that careers can happen these days.”

Although Tantrum’s original plans for the spring are postponed to 2022, its next production, Spring Awakening, is a musical picked for its adaptability amid uncertain times. The idea is to do music videos, Coy said, and essentially a full album recording of the songs. Scenes are hoped to be shot on location, unlike Republic.

“We still have to have a sort of plan ABC, depending on, say, how strict we have to be in terms of social distancing and safety precautions,” Lincoln said. “Because if this continues, where we are right now, we can't really do (the) idea as proposed.”

For the actors participating in Republic, the experience is different compared to what they do on stage. Although Neal said she has learned a lot from the experience, she misses an audience. 

“There’s just nothing like live theater,” Neal said. 


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