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The show must go on(line)! In 2020, Shakespeare’s heroines meet up on Zoom

When the 2020-2021 theatre season had to start remotely, Theatre Conservatory Director Maryanne Householder didn’t fuss. Auditions? She could hold them on Zoom. Plenty of actors prepare remote auditions at the best of times. Rehearsals? A ton of play preparation involves research, which could be done online, too. No sweat. And Ms. Householder’s can-do attitude extended to the selection of the fall production as well. She chose a one-act play without too many technical requirements, dealing with material that she loves to teach, and a story that would make the actors shine.
When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet proved a great fit in every way. It’s a contemporary comedy that revolves around five of the Bard’s best-known heroines trying to convince Juliet to stay clear of Romeo. “I'm a big Shakespeare person. I love Shakespeare,” says Ms. Householder. Early in the rehearsal process, the cast was able to watch several online Shakespeare productions and conducted spirited script analysis as a group. 

At the beginning of the school year, suspecting that indoor performances might not be possible by November, Ms. Householder started brainstorming audacious alternatives. Maybe the play could be performed outside, with audience members bringing their own chairs? But she always knew her hopes for in-person performances were entirely contingent on what the health situation might be at that point. As their showtimes loomed, it became clear that staging the outdoor production they had all hoped for, even with exquisite planning, just wasn’t going to be possible. It was a devastating blow for everyone involved. However, Ms. Householder did some soul-searching, in which she examined, “Why do I do what I do?” She was determined not to cancel the show, which would only deepen the wound she and her cast felt. She found her resolve by reminding herself that, whatever form it might take—be it proscenium stage or Zoom recording—“Theatre can and will always happen.”

This was when the Theatre Conservatory students adopted an ageless theatrical tradition—they made do. They took on the traits of veteran stage practitioners, becoming adaptable, resourceful and fluid. And in spite of the pivot the cast was forced to make late in their rehearsal process, these eight young women playing six legendary roles still found ways for meaningful connections with their text and each other.

Olivia de Cardenas ’22, one of the two students playing Ophelia, definitely misses the in-person energy, but is still finding joy in this process. “I love the community we have in theatre,” she gushes. And Madison Rojas ’23, who plays Desdemona, muses on the idea that taking on a new character is an opportunity for a new perspective. “I get to express myself differently than I would,” she says.

So no, When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet won't be presented live on stage this weekend. But it will be transportive nonetheless. Imagining a different time, embodying a different mindset, engaging in an entirely fictional world—especially after nine months of quarantine—it’s an escape most audience members are eager to take.

The two prerecorded Zoom productions, which feature two different actors as Ophelia and Juliet, will be available for on-demand streaming from Friday, Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 22. Visit the theatre tab of the All Arts Virtual Showcase website to watch the 30-minute shows.
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.