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Campus performance groups to audition virtually this season

Just as academics at Boston University have been transformed this Fall, so too does social life take on a new face. Student organizations must adjust to a more virtual collegiate experience, which poses challenges for groups designed for in-person engagement.

A scene from Boston University Stage Troupe’s production of Alan Ball’s “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” which showed at the BU Student Theater last Fall. Stage Troupe plans to implement “Stage Troupe From Anywhere,” which will allow students the flexibility to participate in auditions, workshops and productions remotely or in-person. COURTESY OF ROBERT BRANNING

Talent-based groups in particular — centered around dancing, singing and acting — have to reimagine what their recruitment and eventual performances will look like without the lights, costumes and live audiences.

Stage Troupe, BU’s oldest theatre group, hopes to follow a “Stage Troupe from Anywhere” plan. President Isabella Very, senior in the School of Hospitality Administration, said this model will allow both new and returning students to take part in productions, workshops and auditions either remotely or in person, offering the same freedoms as BU’s Learn from Anywhere.

“Most of our programming is virtual, just because everything we do really revolves around teamwork and gathering a team in one space is not possible,” Very said. “Flexibility and adaptability are going to be very key this semester.”

After SPLASH and similar club fairs last week, freshmen and other students interested in joining Stage Troupe will complete auditions differently than in years past.

“We’re doing a hybrid format for auditions,” Very said. “For our special projects, you’ll have a choice of either emailing in a video or signing up for a Zoom slot.”

The “Stage Troupe Inspiration Project,” introduced this Fall, allows teams to design short plays from source materials for pandemic-friendly venues. The Troupe will also host in-person events abiding by social distancing regulations, such as mask-making workshops that will teach attendees costume-making and sewing skills.

Very said she is concerned about maintaining high participation, especially as some past members may not currently be in Boston. But she said this new challenge has given club members an opportunity to return to their roots and consider the impact of theater on themselves and their audiences.

“We’ve approached this semester … to examine what is theatre and what theater can be, when so much of what our traditional definition of theater depends on a live performance, and that’s just not possible right now,” Very said. “So we’ve tried to reimagine a lot of events in a way that makes sense for right now that also engages our membership in a lot of different and new ways.”

The Wandering Minds student theater club will rely on technology to host virtual plays, according to secretary Isabella Watson, a sophomore in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. She said the two Fall productions will offer both a live reading and a pre-recorded version.

“As far as tech goes for this year, we’re obviously not going to have lighting or costumes or anything, but I plan to have a huge audio crew,” Watson said. “So, I’ll have people who are in charge of sound effects, music, editing, recording, all that jazz.”

The presidents of BU’s 12 acapella groups came together to create a website that provides students information about each group and allows them to audition through Google Forms.

College of Arts and Sciences senior Sara Portela, president of BU’s all-female acapella group Aural Fixation, said she was initially worried the group would “disintegrate.” But through the collaboration of other groups, she said she became excited to reformat the ensemble.

“I didn’t know how we were going to do anything with acapella,” Portela said. “But seeing everybody very motivated to have auditions and put out content and things like that really inspired me to step it up in my own group as well, with planning and getting my members excited.”

For those looking to audition for these organizations, digital auditions may seem simpler, but can make the process both more and less stressful.

Renee Torio, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts, said she plans to audition for various BU acapella groups that are holding both pre-recorded and live auditions over Zoom.

“It is nice to be able to do multiple takes and choose what I would like to submit, but this also lends itself to overthinking and focusing too much on minute details,” Torio said. “I’m a bit nervous about the live Zoom auditions because … I can’t totally be sure what the audio sounds like on the adjudicators’ end, as we’re not in the same space.”

CAS sophomore Sakshi Shah said she plans to audition virtually for BU Jalwa, a fusion dance team. The auditions will be submitted as a video, which Shah thinks will help her showcase her best self.

“I have that leverage that I can redo the dance a number of times until it’s up to my satisfaction,” Shah said. “If I were to do it in person, I would only have that one chance to do it, but doing it virtually, I can try to record and get it as perfect as I want.”

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