East Carolina University’s School of Theatre and Dance (SoTD) looks forward to upcoming spring performances, health and safety as students once again return to in-person classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SoTD plans to continue in-person classes for the upcoming spring. Michael Tahaney, head of the SoTD musical theatre program, said since the fall 2021 semester went well, he was hopeful for the spring 2022 semester, yet as the situation has progressed, his worries have increased.
“The fall (2021 semester) was great and going into the spring, who knows with the delta and omicron variants sort of floating around out there, I really don't know,” Tahaney said.
Tahaney hopes that ECU will remain in-person for the entirety of the spring 2022 semester despite the challenges the university may face. He said those ECU students who previously had online classes during the 2020-2021 school year due to the pandemic have done much better academically with in-person classes.
The pivot from online to in-person courses for upperclassmen at the start of the pandemic was a difficult process, Tahaney said, but the ECU community did its best to adjust to the change.
“The students who had been online for over a year and a half and, of course, the incoming freshman students who spent almost their whole senior high school in a weird hybrid thing too, so they were so appreciative of the opportunity to be face-to-face,” Tahaney said. “They (the upperclassmen) were frustrated with the virtual platform but they had an understanding of things that made it bearable for them.”
Tahaney said he continues to remain hopeful as more news spreads about other nearby colleges postponing in-person classes. He wants ECU and its community to be able to remain open and face-to-face for the entire spring 2022 semester.
Being completely in person or being completely online is much easier in the arts, according to Tahaney. He said that even though he wants to remain hopeful, he can't help but be worried that ECU could go back to online classes due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, as this could potentially affect the program’s first performance, “Pippin.”
“I am directing the first production, which is “Pippin,” that opens Feb. 23, 2022. So we have about six weeks from the beginning of the semester and that’s really fast to put a production up,” Tahaney said. “It's a shortened rehearsal space in that first slot in the spring anyway so I already have a very tight window to rehearse.
Sophomore musical theatre major Reagan Cochrane said the fall 2021 semester was mostly in-person compared to her freshman year in 2020, which was completely online.
While having online classes isn’t ideal, Cochrane said online courses are something that she has gotten used to over time. She said that it didn’t hinder her and her classmates from becoming closer or accomplishing what they had to do academically.
Cochrane said she was happy to be in-person for fall semester as it made it easier to participate in the more interactive classes, such as acting and theatre classes that she has taken thus far at ECU.
“This year we (students) were kind of mostly fully functioning. I mean, basically all of my classes were fully in-person and pretty much everything was normal,” Cochrane said. “As far as our performance season, I know us (theatre) and dance basically did everything as fully functioning as we were meant to.”
Cochrane said that while the SoTD complied with community guidelines regarding COVID-19 last semester and will continue to do so throughout the spring, there were and will be several opportunities for students to get back to a somewhat normal atmosphere at ECU.
In the first play of the fall 2021 season, “The Visit,” all performers were required to wear face masks on stage. However, in the last musical of the season, “Head Over Heels,” performers were unmasked on stage and wore masks while off stage, according to Cochrane.
The first theater performance of the spring 2022 semester will be “Pippin,” which is to be performed at the end of February. The “Pippin '' performance, Cochrane said, should have the same COVID-19 guidelines as the SoTD’s last performance, which was “Head Over Heels”' before the winter break.
“If they (ECU) are planning on updating anything, we (the students) haven’t been told yet,” Cochrane said.
In terms of the spring semester, Cochrane said she is in a major where the COVID-19 virus can spread easily. She said since the omicron variant is getting worse and she knows so many people who are sick right now, she is worried about what the future semester holds.
Junior dance education major Kelly Holt said she is currently trying to continue to stay positive and go with the flow as the pandemic lingers on. Holt said since she is only a junior, she hopes everything will be more under control by the time her senior year comes around.
“With the pandemic, it is so hard to know what is coming next. I wasn’t expecting omicron to be hitting now when in the beginning it was just ‘oh you know, just COVID’ during freshman year,” Holt said. “I remember I was a freshman when I heard there was a case in North Carolina, and then two weeks later we went online, so we just never know”.
The dance program’s first performance will be “Spring Dance 2022” and will take place in March. Holt said she expects that guidelines will be the same as past productions, where audience members, as well as performers, will be masked. The SoTD’s directors haven’t told the students anything different, according to Holt.