A theatre that has sat quiet and empty since last March, when the pandemic began, is once again coming to life as cast and crew take their places on stage for FIU Theatre’s latest production.
Sonnets for an Old Century by José Rivera is a series of monologues in which the characters express what appears to be their last words and thoughts that will go out to the universe.
Director Michael Yawney asks: “If you had one chance to share that most important thing, what would it be?
"The experience of seeing each character share their story is at times funny and at times moving," he adds. "But it really shows how different we all are."
For their return to the BlackBox Theatre at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, FIU Theatre's cast and crew wanted a production that would offer great storytelling but was also flexible enough to follow the university's Panthers Protecting Panthers safety guidelines. So a play that only has one actor performing solo on stage at a time seemed like a good place to start.
For senior Luis Diaz, whose character is a man struggling with his view of the world due to his past, being able to perform his final play at FIU in an actual theater made all the difference.
“It feels amazing to be performing on a stage again because it's the way theatre was meant to be done,” he says. “Being in the 'space' just feels right. It's easier to slip into the mind of my character and to easily recall all of the inner life I've created for my character. I'm excited for a proper shot at performing this play.”
The cast spent the month rehearsing over Zoom and came to the BlackBox Theatre, one at a time, to film their monologues with all the trimmings of a live production. Each recording will be cut and pieced together, so viewers can stream it virtually from April 2 through April 4.
“I have directed video pieces and some remote readings, but this production is very different,” Yawney says. “It is much more like ordinary theatre because we have sets, lighting, props, costumes and sound, we get to create a completely fictional world.”
During the pandemic, FIU Theatre found other ways to create theatre outside of their stages. The department hosted a multitude of virtual play readings and productions. But with a virtual production, some elements had to be sacrificed or scaled-back.
“Sonnets for an Old Century is different because we don't have as many limitations as we do over Zoom,” says lighting designer Bryan Pivaral. “Over Zoom, we faced the issue of every actor not having the same space, camera quality or access to the same lighting fixtures - which makes it difficult to coordinate the same look and feel on everyone’s screens. Now that we have the chance to do it in person, there is more control and unification.”
For some of the student actors, Sonnets is their first chance to perform in an FIU Theatre production on stage.
“All of my classes are online, and all the rehearsals have been through Zoom so far, so performing my monologue in the actual performance space is something I’ve never done before," says Chiara Jacobus, whose character contemplates the demise of human life on earth. “And since this is the first FIU production I will be acting in, it makes it all the more exciting.”
Don’t miss FIU Theatre’s last production of the season! The production streams the weekend of April 2-4, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are free and must be reserved in advance. For more information and to reserve your tickets, visit the FIU Theatre website.