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Safety Gets Starring Role in Sinclair Theatre Productions

The global pandemic has forced arts and theatre organizations to reexamine procedures and, often times, put a halt to productions, but that’s not the case at Sinclair Community College.  Through dedication and ingenuity, Sinclair Theatre is setting the stage for its productions with safety receiving top billing.  

In April, Sinclair Theatre had plans to present the live stage production of Sophokles’ classic, Antigone, with modern translation by Anne Carson.  The play had already been cast, rehearsals were in process and the set nearly completed when the pandemic forced the shutdown of live productions. In the true spirit of Antigone’s (the lead character) persistence, Gina Neuerer, chair of Sinclair’s Music, Theatre and Dance Department, developed a plan utilizing all COVID-19 protocols to ensure the show would go on…virtually.  The safety plan included:

• Moved to a bigger space — the set, nearly finished, was moved from its original location in Sinclair’s black box space to the larger stage in Blair Hall Theatre.

• Masks — everyone involved wore masks at all times. In fact, specific masks were incorporated into the final costuming of the “updated” version of the show.

• Social Distancing — achieved via mulitple adjustments:

o Limited rehearsal time — 2 hours versus a normal 4-hour schedule.

o Number of actors/crew at rehearsals reduced to 3 or 4 at a time.

o Re-blocking of entire production using social distancing (blocking is a theatre term describing where actors stand) — Large Yellow Xs were taped on the floor, showing 8 feet of distance during the early rehearsal process for a reminder as the actors worked. These were removed and 8 foot poles were incorporated as staffs to offer actors visual confirmation of spacing during performance.

o No costume fittings — actors used their own clothing to develop a contemporary look for the production and were provided masks.

o Sanitizing —  props were not shared and breaks happened every half hour for both washing hands and comfort breaks, as wearing the masks adds another level of exhaustion.

• Research — Found available technology to legally stream online event and acquire licensing permissions.

• Recording — Sinclair’s Learning Technologies Department was enlisted to film and edit the finished product for streaming.

• Audiences — In addition to online patrons, reached out to instructors, both college and high school, who needed appropriate material to augment their COVID-19 online curriculums.

• Results — Antigone streamed online, 24/7, from Oct. 1-4th. 

“The sense of accomplishment cannot be measured in traditional ways,” says Neuerer. “The cast and crew were ecstatic to have been able to complete this journey by creatively incorporating solutions to COVID-19 challenges.” 

In addition, advantages to this hybrid theatre delivery were uncovered:

“My students really liked it and since we were on Zoom they used the chat feature to react or ask questions (which was helpful). One young man who NEVER volunteers to talk about anything wanted to chat about it at the end of class.”

— Furaha Henry-Jones, Professor, Sinclair English Department

“I found watching the play via Zoom with the entire cast chatting was so much fun. I liked interacting with everyone and hearing about what goes on during rehearsals It was cool to see all the shoutouts and support for one another, and it was heartwarming. I can’t wait to help create something as unique as Antigone.”

— Grace Zupke, New Theatre Major at Sinclair

“The show was great! Thanks for providing the experience. It was a great kick-off to Theatre History in my Advanced Theatre class.”

— Darren McGarvey, Kettering Fairmont High School

“There are SO MANY people to thank for making this production possible,” says Neuerer. “The credits at the end of the video were very long. Faculty, staff, students, administrators; people who stepped up to prove that by working together we CAN achieve our goals while keeping everyone safe.”

To learn more about Sinclair’s Theatre Department, visit: