WILMINGTON — If necessity is the mother of invention, then Wilmington College Theatre devised the perfect way to have a spring production for which rehearsals adhere to social distancing and the ultimate performance can be viewed by all those who wish to see it.
“FIERCE: The Fearless Women of Shakespeare’s Plays” is a collection of a dozen monologues or small scenes filmed individually and edited into a cohesive production that will be available for viewing on the home and theatre pages of the College’s website www.wilmington.edu beginning at noon Friday, April 16.
Director Bryan Wallingford said the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to consider options to presenting a show to a very limited live audience, as WC Theatre did fall semester with the production of “Sordid Lives” before an exclusively campus audience while allowing for a just a fraction of seats to be filled.
“We knew we wanted to experiment with filming live performances so we could release the show to a wider audience during this time of restricted seating capacity in theatres,” he said. The show’s uniqueness doesn’t end with its delivery mode as a YouTube video, as “FIERCE” has an entirely female cast.
“The department has such a strong group of women right now, so it seemed appropriate to showcase their talents and skills by making the piece about the powerful female characters in Shakespeare’s plays,” he added. “These characters are all fierce in their own ways, and the actors bring their own unique experiences to the roles.”
Although the initial concept was Wallingford’s, he believed it was important — especially in a show about powerful women — to encourage the women in the cast to be in charge of many of the decisions about the show.
“They were cast as specific characters, but they chose which monologue or moment from that character really spoke to them,” he said. “They selected not only what was to be played, but how it was to be played. We wanted to give each of the monologues a contemporary feel, so we all collaborated on how to accomplish this. Each rehearsal started with group sharing, and the feedback came from the whole group, not just me as the director.
“It was an interesting exploration of decentralizing the process.”
Senior Riley Gatlin, an education major from Beavercreek, performs a monologue by Katherine from Shakespeare’s classic “The Taming of the Shrew.” She’s thrilled to be cast in a show after the pandemic tainted the last year of opportunities to be a part of WC Theatre productions.
“I was starved for performing. I’m grateful to be able to work on a show again,” she said, noting that filming their performances offers some advantages. “While nothing beats performing for a live audience, I’m glad there are other means that are available to make performing again possible. I’m looking forward to sharing this experience — through film — with my friends and family.”
Gatlin is impressed with the quantity and quality of Shakespeare’s “fierce” women and marvels at how, even 500 years removed from when the Bard of Avon wrote these plays, human themes remain constant.
“No matter how different our lives might look from those of Shakespeare’s day, we still have the same emotions and feelings,” she added. “We still feel the anxiety of confessing our love, the sting of a broken promise, the pain of betrayal and the sarcastic cynicism toward the way things are. Though the specific problems of today might look different, the underlying emotions that we act out on the stage are very much the same.”
In addition to Gatlin as Katherine, the cast features: Beatrice, as portrayed by Fae Maffin; Lady Mac, Rylee Riggs; Portia, Ariana Riccardi; Rosalind, Cecilia Hunt; Margaret, Becca Simonji; Joan, Jennah Blair; Ophelia, Alyssa Jenkins; Isabella, Maya Wahrhaftig; Emelia, Shelbi Mays; Cressida, Olivia Boczar; and Cleopatra, Baylee Joy Martin.
With Wallingford’s roles as director and concept originator, the balance of the production team includes Ashleigh Wellman, filming and editing; J. Wynn Alexander, costumes and props; Becky Haines, lighting design; Jessica Fair and Linda Mead, follow spot operation; and Layne Frederick and Nic Keller, shop assistants.