Arts & Entertainment, Coronavirus, Features

Coronavirus sparks on-campus performance cancellations

With Boston University’s decision announced Tuesday night to hold classes for the remainder of the semester remotely in response to the coronavirus outbreak, BU’s social groups have halted for, in many cases, the rest of the semester.

BU on Broadway was set to begin performances of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” starting March 26, but the theatre group has had to cancel the production because of the coronavirus outbreak. COURTESY BU ON BROADWAY

In the midst of the global pandemic, the World Health Organization has urged citizens to practice social distancing, where individuals avoid large group gatherings and otherwise risky public interactions. Consequently, theater organizations — including BU on Broadway and Stage Troupe — were forced to call off rehearsals and productions.

On March 11, hours after BU switched to temporary online learning, John Battaglino, executive director of student activities, informed student leaders via email that their organizations would cease all planned meetings and performances for the duration of BU’s remote learning period.

While students may be concerned about their disconnection from the campus community, Battaglino said in an interview that he is optimistic that, with the right precautions, BU will be able to fully operate again.

“This is certainly unprecedented, it’s quite a challenge,” Battaglino said. “I think in the end, when this does pass … in some strange way, it’s going to bring us a little closer together.”

Mac Wylie, president of on-campus musical theater group BU On Broadway and a senior in the College of Communication, said he was excited to complete his senior year, overseeing two productions, both of which have been canceled. Wylie said the situation presents emotional challenges for himself and the organization at large.

“Watching my last show in college get canceled the same week as some high school alma mater’s weekend show got canceled, it was a huge bummer,” Wylie said. “[BUOB is] trying to find little ways to sneak shows in there, still give people the opportunity to do the stuff that they’ve been working on.”

BUOB was set to perform “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” starting March 26, after completing nearly all preparations before spring break, Wylie said. Off Broadway, BUOB’s community service choir, had planned to perform an end-of-the-year showcase, Wylie said, had BU decided to reopen.

BU Stage Troupe saw cancellations of their final two of three shows this semester. “The Yellow Boat” was performed the last weekend of February, but the group’s productions of “Medea” and “If/Then” were cut.

Matthew Dalton, director of “Medea” and a junior in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said he had a personal connection to the project, having pitched the show and led the artistic interpretation of the actors’ portrayal. Despite his inability to bring the show to life in front of audiences, Dalton said he is grateful for the experience.

“I got to experience and feel my thoughts and artistic direction and everything that came with being a director other than getting to share it with everybody else,” Dalton said. “I think everybody comes into college hoping that they’re going to find a community or people that they really fit well with … and I definitely think I found that in Stage Troupe.”

Olivia Fumiatti, a junior in COM and ensemble member of BUOB’s “Chicago,” which was set to be staged in early April, said the cast and crew had been preparing for five weeks when they received news that events were suspended.

“We already blocked the entirety of Act One,” Fumiatti said. “The fact that it got swept out from underneath us as soon as we were about to start Act Two was kind of shi–y.”

Kimberly Zak, president of Stage Troupe and senior in the College of Fine Arts, said it was hard to lose her on-campus community that she has belonged to since her freshman year. Zak said she feels fortunate that “Yellow Boat” was held prior to spring break, but in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic she feels removed from her refuge at BU.

“Stage Troupe has definitely been one of the cornerstones of my college experience,” Zak said. “I think that’s where people are feeling the most pain, is where they’re losing their extracurricular communities and pastimes.”

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