Behind the Scenes as Seton Hill Theatre Creates a Socially-Distanced Production of Hamlet

COVID-19 has changed how the entire world interacts, including the world of theatre. Seton Hill University’s theatre department is determined to continue spreading the joy of theatre by producing their version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet safely amidst a pandemic. 

Social distancing regulations make every aspect of production harder. “I think the biggest challenge has been having to adapt to the new virtual format with very little to no knowledge going in,” said Caila Yates, technical director and production manager of Seton Hill’s Hamlet. “There is never a production that doesn't have any challenges (in person or virtual)! Once we are working with the software and formatting the finished look for the live stream, there will be something that pops up. Some of them are small and quick to solve while others take some creativity.  These can actually be fun and our team is up for the challenges.”

The cast and crew of Hamlet have become creative and are revolutionizing the format of theatre productions. The show will be completely virtual, with actors putting on the show from ‘pods’ which are socially-distanced onstage areas with green screens. They are currently rehearsing online in their own homes. This has become a challenge for many, including theatre arts major Rowan Mentzer who plays Gravedigger 2, Norwegian Captain, and English Ambassador. “My greatest challenge so far has been doing rehearsal over Zoom. I really miss the atmosphere of in-person rehearsals and being able to interact with everyone.” 

"This is just another moment that theatre and its professionals will take, shake it up, and see what they can do with it."

Despite these challenges, the crew is using everything at their disposal. From making virtual backgrounds to multiples of the same prop, “the design team for this show is amazing, and they are putting absolutely everything into making it something special. I am incredibly inspired by them,” proclaimed Lexi Jenks, an assistant stage manager for the Hamlet production and a student at Seton Hill majoring in theatre business.

The perseverance of everyone involved in this production in Hamlet is inspiring. “Theatre will never die. It may grow small for a while, but it never truly goes away. Take a look at history and you can see for yourself. This is just another moment that theatre and its professionals will take, shake it up, and see what they can do with it,” said Yates.

Even with all of the difficulties facing this production, the cast and crew are working tirelessly to perfect this new virtual art. “Now more than ever, the theatre industry is severely hurting, and it needs all the support it can get,” says theatre performance major Julianna Eyer, who plays Voltemand, Player 4, Laertes' Man and understudy to Ophelia. “The show must go on, and we're working hard as artists to find creative ways to continue showcasing our art.”