The Hannon Theatre Company (HTC) has staged a technically creative fall production of “The Government Inspector” amid the novel COVID-19 pandemic. “The Government Inspector” is the acclaimed 19th-century Russian farce written by Nikolai Gogol which showcases a lively, comedic story about a town cursed with corrupt Russian officials. Never before has a Loyola production been faced with such challenges as being forced to perform virtually, but the creative talents of the Hannon Theatre banded together to stage, produce and edit a series of six soon to be released webisodes.
Not deterred by the complex limitations of a virtual play, managing artistic director Walter Wolfe and music director Steven Speciale joined forces to present Loyola’s first-of-its-kind production. Both of these seasoned HTC veterans understood the challenges of mounting a virtual play and opened themselves to this new opportunity.
Wolfe explained, “We didn’t have a set. We didn’t have lights. We had no way to gauge humor because there was no audience. It was a complete learning experience.”
Eager to begin this exclusively online production, HTC maintained its rigorous rehearsal schedule and issued a green screen and an LED light set up to each actor. For sophomore Isaiah Armour, this year’s fall play was his first experience at HTC.
Like the rest of the cast, Armour embraced this challenge and was able to enjoy a meaningful experience, saying, “I learned that there is definitely more than one way to have fun doing the thing you love. Fortunately, acting at HTC has turned out to be very, very fun, and I met some great people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise met.”
This year’s play was also accompanied by a variety of technological barriers. From Wi-Fi connectivity to using new applications, the production process was a turbulent experience.
Reflecting on the fall play’s recording operation, junior actor Jared Aimone offered, “A lot of the obstacles were technological. We were using this different platform than Zoom to record the production called StreamYard—we always had to adapt.”
Armour noted, “This environment has definitely been chaotic and crazy and there were some mishaps. In terms of acting, it was difficult to not be able to walk around because we were just sitting in a chair. It was all voice and upper-body movement that was captured on video.”
He added, “But overall it was fun and kept us all on our toes.”
Another important consideration in the play was to maintain a strong sense of community in HTC and to build cast cohesion. Despite challenges, the ensemble was still able to forge strong bonds throughout the production of “The Government Inspector.”
Aimone explained, “I learned that with the improv games we played to warm-up for rehearsals and just the interactive nature of theatre, even online, we grew close together. We even hosted a bonfire at Dockweiler Beach about a month and a half into the production just to make sure that everyone knew each other and were able to connect a little bit.”
Through all of the obstacles and setbacks impacting the Hannon Theatre, it provided a place of community during a time of mass isolation.
Reflecting on the unity and teamwork of HTC, Wolfe stated, “I enjoyed the fact that the kids and I had so much fun. It was tonic. It was medicine for us when we were a bit depressed about not being with each other in the theatre and being stuck at home.” For more information regarding the annual fall play, please visit https://www.hannontheatre.com/home or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpLC-WgIGxY&feature=emb_title for an exclusive preview of “The Government Inspector.”