College of Arts and Sciences senior Taila Fittante shows off the mask that gives singers more room to move their jaw and take deep breaths while performing. In accordance with campus policy, this is just one of the changes required of the theater department. 

Thinking outside of the box is something that artists are well-known for, but what happens to creative ideas when art must be kept behind a mask? In preparation for the upcoming performing arts season, Creighton University’s musical theater department is researching practices to enable students to perform and learn theater during this time.

One of the largest changes made to musical theater is that all students wear a singer’s mask. This mask provides more room around the singer’s mouth area, which allows them to move their jaw and take in deep breaths that are required for singing. The mask also helps the audience to understand the lyrics being sung.

The first production is the musical “Ordinary Days.” Talia Fittante, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences who is studying musical theater, was recently cast in this four-person musical that will ideally open on Sept. 30 and run till Oct. 4. With safety as a priority for the department, having musicals with so few performers will make social distancing guidelines easier to maintain. The department is researching the best approaches and playing around with ideas of filming or recording the musical. One possible option that Fittante expressed interest in was creating a cast album at a professional sound recording studio.

The fall theater production of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is also bound to be adjusted to comply with Creighton’s mask mandate and social distancing guidelines. The program director of musical theater and theater, Amy Lane, said, “We are looking into doing a film adaptation instead of a live performance. Everyone is excited about learning more about acting for the camera and the differences between film and live performance.”

For students taking classes focused on acting and performing, being able to be in-person is a high priority. “I feel like it is really hard to teach acting of any kind online just because it is so physical,” said Fittante. However, for in-person classes at this time masks are highly problematic for students, since they cannot see reactions or emotions as clearly. Since displaying emotions is such a vital part of acting, this can be frustrating for actors. 

“No matter what the fall performing arts season ends up looking like, rest assured that producing great art is a commitment we have made to our students,” said Lane.

“This program has literally changed my life. It has made me a better person as well as a better performer,” said Fittante. “I’m really proud of the way that the program is figuring out different alternatives to be able to make art.”

So rest assured, those who love attending the productions on campus will have plenty of performances to enjoy this semester — they just might not be in the traditional forms you expect.

Although COVID-19 is limiting some abilities and opportunities for students, the department has expressed an ability to adapt and learn new skills necessary to create art under these circumstances. This performing arts season will be unlike any other.

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