Theatre UCF spent the year creating inspiring performances in unique and innovative ways. Conventional live performances were disrupted by the pandemic, but our students and faculty pivoted and adapted to new mediums and unconventional spaces.
In Fall 2020, since audiences couldn’t come to campus, Theatre UCF brought theatre into your home. The season kicked off with a series of four plays highlighting the urgent push for racial equality and social justice that is at the heart of the current anti-racist movement. This artistic response was titled Amplify, Empower, Illuminate: Four Plays, Many Diverse Voices and tackled issues at the heart of current events addressing injustice, police brutality and systemic racism.
“Theatre has to be relevant and after experiencing the events of the summer, it was important for us as artists to be involved in the dialogue going on in the country,” says Theatre UCF Artistic Director Julia Listengarten.
Guest artists and speakers were brought in to lend their talent and voice to the process. Students rehearsed and performed from home while the production and design team pieced together the performances into full-length shows audiences could watch from their couch.
The fall semester finished with a fun, modern twist on Shakespeare. A new version of Much Ado About Nothing translated by Ranjit Bolt brought new light to the famous comedy in an imaginative virtual reading. This modern verse translation was created through the Play On Shakespeare program and was made possible by the generous support of John and Rita Lowndes.
“The students learned a great deal by acting on camera,” says Listengarten. “It’s a truly different skill from live performance. It came out of necessity but became an educational opportunity.”
Live performances returned for Spring 2021, featuring three outdoor, socially distanced performances including a hopeful musical concert, a colorful commedia dell’arte play and a family-friendly show about wanting to be anything but average.
“We were looking for experiences that offer a chance to bring people together in the same space to share in joy and hope,” says Listengarten. “So we chose shows and performances to match the environments available to us to perform in. Instead of our usual spring musical, we opted for a concert so each performer could take the stage solo and we will be performing a Commedia Dell’arte piece that was traditionally performed outdoors.”
Our musical theatre students brought joy to audiences under a tent in the Orlando Shakes Courtyard with a musical concert featuring classic show-tune favorites and current Broadway hits. Songs of Inspiration was a collection of pieces with a message of hope, joy and healing.
Theatre UCF dove into the origins of commedia dell’arte with an outdoor, renaissance-style courtyard production of Scaramouch in Naxos. The story involves a plot by the roguish clown Scaramouch to have a Greek god star in his latest play, while Silenus schemes to interfere with his theatrical ambitions and the would-be lovers, Ione and Sarmion. Students had the opportunity to play in this stylistic comedic genre with exaggerated masks, mistaken identities and pantomimes.
Our Theatre for Young Audience MFA program brought us into a land of giants, flying things and monsters in The Grumpiest Boy in the World. The play follows Zachary, a grumpy boy of seven who wants to be anything but average. He goes on an amazing adventure to find anything else that will make him stand out. The production toured to several schools in metro Orlando and was remounted at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2021.
The spring semester wrapped up with the return of UCF Celebrates the Arts. With the annual festival being held mostly outdoors, our stage management and performance technology students had the opportunity to learn to manage and produce shows on an outdoor stage. Our BFA musical theatre seniors hit all the right notes in their senior showcase and our dance students lit up the stage of the Walt Disney Theater with an incredible evening of dance.
Pegasus PlayLab, a new play festival dedicated to developing works by emerging playwrights, returned this year in a slightly modified format. The festival produced virtual readings of four plays by a diverse set of playwrights. Each production was followed by talkbacks with the playwrights and creative team, giving the audience a chance to give feedback and learn more about the creative process.
A new musical for young audiences created by a group of UCF students and alumni called Sombra del Sol brought audiences outdoors through a magical journey that transformed the courtyard at the Performing Arts Center into the Amazon Rainforest.
Looking to join us for more spectacular performances next season? Our 2021–22 schedule is now available at arts.ucf.edu/theatre!