May 9, 2021

Capital University Theatre goes virtual with “An Enemy of the People”

(Featured image courtesy of Holly Hanson)

From Feb. 11-14, Capital University Theatre delighted their audience with a virtual adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play, “An Enemy of the People.” 

The play was adapted for virtual theatre and directed by Bill Kennedy, professor and director of University Theatre Communication at Capital. 

Kennedy’s adaptation centers around a small town in modern day West Virginia where they’re preparing to build an upscale resort. The mayor commissions the local chemist to test the town’s water before progress can be made on the resort, but she soon finds out that it’s contaminated. She has a moral obligation to report the issue, but doing so would mean risking jobs and the overall success of the brand new resort. 

Would you speak up when something is wrong or would you avoid confrontation at all costs? Do public health and the environment outweigh economic prosperity? Most importantly, who gets to decide where to draw the line? These are just some of the thought-provoking questions you end up asking yourself as the events of the play unfold. 

Due to the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy knew that the play was going to have to be performed virtually. Fortunately, he was able to construct the play in such a way that integrated the Zoom technology into the script. In fact, all of the scenes are written as video calls between characters. Each actor’s Zoom screen served as their own personal stage in a way. 

When writing a musical for traditional theatre, Kennedy usually has to figure out how to efficiently incorporate certain songs or dance numbers into the script. Now, he’s had to get used to incorporating virtual technology, instead. 

“The students that are involved have taught me a lot,” Kennedy said. “I am not great with computers, and they have been very patient.” 

The cast made the clever decision to use Zoom’s webinar feature for the show, allowing certain actors to perform with each other at the same time depending on which characters were in that particular scene. Sometimes a different character would even join in on the scene, or video call, halfway into it. This was one of several ways in which the virtual aspect served to enhance the story rather than hold it back. 

The story of this play is one that felt rather timely considering the COVID-19 pandemic  experienced in the past year. It deals with subjects of public health and the common good, which both tend to be at the center of many discussions nowadays. 

It made me think a lot about the dangers of spreading misinformation to push a particular economic agenda, as well as the importance of electing officials who have true intentions of serving all people. 

Due to health-related concerns, many schools across the country have understandably chosen to temporarily pause theatre activities completely. Capital University Theatre, however, chose to adapt to the circumstances to ensure that the show still went on. I believe this says a lot about their creativity and passion for the craft. 

“I’m pleased that we’re able to rise to the challenge,” Kennedy said.

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