Marywood Theatre Department Returns To Live Events with “The Sonnet Project”


Photo courtesy of Marywood’s Music, Theatre and Dance department.

Richard Andrus, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Marywood’s Music, Theatre and Dance department will present “The Sonnet Project,” a contemporary piece of theatre envisioned for audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic this weekend. The performance will be held behind the Marian Chapel at the Swartz Center for Spiritual Life.

The hour-long production helps audiences experience a group of approximately 20 of Shakespeare’s sonnets by incorporating acting and music in an outdoor setting — reminiscent of the British playwright’s works at the acclaimed Globe Theatre.

The piece wasn’t the department’s original plan for the fall.

When Dr. Timothy Pyles, the new director of the theatre program, came to the university earlier this year, he initially expected to be able to put on a main stage production in the Sette LaVerghetta Center for Performing Arts this fall.

When in-person classes went online in early March, he ended up scrapping these plans and started developing a project that not only would become a celebration of sonnets but would also signify the return of live theatre after a six-month absence.

With his Marywood debut, Pyles said he intends to change the public’s opinion on Shakespeare from one that generally views the works as dense and overly-ornate, to one that can engage with the passion and vivacity behind the short poems.

“The last thing we want to do is quote Shakespeare to people as we memorized it for English class in high school,” said Pyles. “Instead, we want to live with these sonnets so that we can speak and communicate them viscerally and from the heart to help people really experience their emotional content.”

Mason Marie Clark, a senior theater education major who will be stage managing the performances, said she is astonished by the cast’s hard work and dedication both on and off the stage.

“Our cast of 11 people from a variety of different majors on campus have just emotionally put themselves into this production’s heart and soul,” she said.

Despite its triumphs, Marywood’s return to live theatre hasn’t been without its wide array of complications, especially how to maintain social distancing regulations.

“It’s certainly very challenging under these conditions, seeing as how acting is about the interaction between people face to face and often closer than six feet,” explained Pyles. “Having to create and rehearse the show following all of these [COVID-19] guidelines is very different but I’m very proud of the students, as they are very willing to just kind of go with the flow and try new things to do what needs to be done.”

Since the production will be outdoors, it will allow for a comfortable amount of social distancing between audience members and the students performing. The Music, Theatre and Dance department suggests anyone interested in attending should bring something to sit on, such as a blanket or a lawn chair, and plan on wearing a mask while distancing themselves from others.

Pyles explained how the cast will be able to use these safety procedures and the unconventional venue to its advantage by using a multi-layer stage layout developed explicitly for this production so they can perform without face coverings.

“People will be both on and off the stage, with the latter involving actors standing on pieces of scenery in the grassy area around the performance space,” said Pyles. “Given these limitations, the plan is to keep around 10 feet between everybody as opposed to just six, which will still be a good opportunity for our students to work on their craft while also being something enjoyable and special for an audience.”

Stage Manager Clark said she is most excited to see “The Sonnet Project” happen given the chaos created by COVID-19 throughout the world.

“It blows my mind that we’ve all been able to come together, in-person, during a global pandemic to create a production,” Clark said.

Pyles noted these sonnets continue to be relevant today, regardless of their age.

“They’re still around because they express human experiences in such an effective and profound manner, but we lose that if we treat them as this dead text that we quote and disassociate from,” he stated. “We have to get it into our bodies, into our guts, to find a way to help our audience experience that so that the pieces come alive.”

Attendance will be on a first come, first served basis. The performances, which are free of charge, will take place on Friday, Oct. 2, at 5:30 p

.m., Saturday, Oct. 3, at 2 and 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m.

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Twitter: @RAndrusTWW