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Theatrical season celebrates women, adjusts to COVID-19 regulations

Season includes mix of virtual and in-person shows amid the pandemic

Rollins’ 88th theatrical season will not compare to any prior season. In addition to the new health upheaval, this year’s season is the first to include only plays that are written by female playwrights. Three of the four plays will be directed by women.

“We wanted to give as many opportunities to our female-identifying actors as possible, but also not exclude the men,” said Missy Barnes, director of “The Empty Space.”

Originally, the entire season was going to be produced in person. Now, the season will consist of four plays: “Ohio State Murders” and “The Empty Space” will be performed virtually, and “The Wolves” will be performed in-person with outside seating. “Cry It Out” will be shown both virtually and on the Annie Russell Theatre stage. 

“The audience will actually be seated on the stage, around the show, masked and socially distanced,” said Marianne DiQuattro, director of “The Wolves.” 

Beginning the semester, the directors had already started planning for the stage productions to be in-person instead of virtual. This was decided early on, but plans changed as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on through the summer.

“Everything has been reimagined, and we are reinventing lots of our processes that usually run like a really well-oiled machine,” said DiQuattro.

With the pandemic constraining the abilities of on-campus auditions, rehearsals, and performances, the theater program had to adapt to a new environment.

“Conceptually, transferring what you can do on the stage to the Zoom environment has been a challenge,” said Hilary Cooperman, director of “Ohio State Murders.”

The audience and cast members will all be properly masked and socially distanced during these plays, and the theater will host a maximum of 20 audience members. 

This season, auditions and rehearsals are also held virtually. Cooperman described this year’s audition process as “far more efficient than they have ever been. The actors really embraced the technology and it makes sense that if you’re doing a Zoom show, that you would be auditioning on camera.”

Not only will the Rollins Theatre Program emphasize women’s contributions to the theater world, it will also shine a spotlight on Black women, staging a production of  “Ohio State Murders.” This one-act play written by Adrienne Kennedy is about a “killer” who is not a man at all, but rather a symbol of racism.

“Our current producing artistic director wanted to attend to the fact that women have been excluded and marginalized from theater in some ways, especially women of color,” said Barnes.

The decision to elevate women of color was made ahead of time. 

“Even before the death of George Floyd, it was something that we had decided that we wanted to do early on and that continued into this season of Annie Stripped,” Cooperman explained. “The sort of climate that we are now in allowed us to put even more weight into this decision that had to be done.”

In-person attendees will need to reserve their seats to be officially counted for tracing.

More information about Annie Russell Theater’s 88th season, as well as ticketing and safety information, can be found at The first play of the season will be “Cry It Out,” hosted both virtually and in-person, and will run from Oct. 9 to Oct. 17.

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