Gustavus Theatre and Dance Embraces Online Theatre With 48-Hour Theatre Project Posted on September 23rd, 2020 by

Emily Haugen ’23 (left) and AnnJelique Dunham ’24 (right) play the couple in “The White Noise,” directed and written by Miranda Johnsen ’21 for the 48-Hour Theatre Project.

Over the weekend the Department of Theatre & Dance at Gustavus Adolphus College presented its “48-Hour Virtual Theatre Project.” Student directors Sam Peters ’23 and Miranda Johnsen ’21 each created a short online theatre piece in 48 hours and presented it via Zoom. 

The directors were given the theme “Protest” in class Friday afternoon. They then had Friday night to write their shows, before auditioning their casts Saturday morning and launching straight into rehearsal. Rehearsals went until late Saturday night and started back up Sunday morning. The directors and casts presented their work Sunday night.

As the project was completed entirely online, the directors had some unique challenges, but embraced the opportunity. “I was very impressed with how at ease they were working with this medium, and how open they were to experimenting with the format,” Associate Professor of Theatre & Dance Henry MacCarthy says. Both directors chose to have the action of their play take place in front of a computer screen, which made the format seem natural.

Peters’s piece, “Beyond the Glow: A Digital Fantasy,” follows a man who despises modern technology as he starts at an online job. “The process was fast and intense,” Peters says. “Writing the script on Friday night was a blur, and when I read it on Saturday morning, I couldn’t remember coming up with some parts of it.” His piece experimented with different Zoom features to immerse the audience, such as the “chat” function in which audience members received messages as well.

In Johnsen’s piece, “The White Noise,” a woman meets with a couples counselor over Zoom, while conflicted about whether to go through with her divorce. Due to the restricted time frame of the project, Johnsen wanted her actors to focus on the tone of the piece, not the exact script. “Because I tend to write a lot of monologues, I wanted my actors to not get too focused on what word came next as much as knowing the beats of the scene and the emotional story of the characters,” she says. 

Overall, both directors felt it was an important experience. “I certainly gained a deeper appreciation for the work that goes into creating a piece of theatre, whether in cyberspace or on a stage,” Peters says.

The 48-Hour Theatre Project is just the start for these two directors. Both Peters and Johnsen will be creating short plays for this year’s “Theatre Gallery: Digital Edition,” with performances on December 4 at 8 p.m. and December 6 at 2 p.m. online. Check out the Gustavus Theatre and Dance website for more information as the performance date approaches.


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