SDSU’s School of Performing Arts adjusts to COVID challenges

Group of dancers in McCrory Gardens
In their 2020 season-opening performance, “Reflections: Theatre + Dance at the Garden,” students performed five differently themed pieces that consisted of student-written narration and acting, dance, music, and poetry.

While this year has been full of challenges, the School of Performing Arts has been coming up with creative solutions to bring cultural experiences to SDSU and the Brookings community. In September, the music and theatre and dance departments partnered with McCrory Gardens to kick off the 2020 season. These performances were impressive accomplishments for both, as the 2020 season came with much uncertainty in the months leading up to the start of the fall semester.

One of the biggest barriers to overcome for these performances was ensuring all social distancing and safety protocols were met. That is where the idea for collaborating with McCrory Gardens came in. Having an outdoor space where social distancing could be followed was important for the safety of performers and patrons. Both departments utilized the collaboration for their season-opening performances. Music performed on Sept. 17 and theatre and dance performed Sept. 25–27. John Ackman, program coordinator of theatre, said they worked closely with McCrory Gardens staff to schedule rehearsals for groups and to make a plan for the performances that closely followed institutional COVID-19 protocols.

Even with restrictions and adjustments, the joy of hearing music and witnessing performances was a positive experience for the Brookings community. David Reynolds, director of the School of Performing Arts, said that many concertgoers mentioned how impactful performances were to them. Attendees were able to walk through the gardens between the small group performances at their own pace, allowing each individual to have a personalized experience. Jacob Wallace, director of concert bands, said, “Each person heard different music at different times and in different places, so each experience of those attending was completely unique to them.”

The collaboration with McCrory Gardens was not the only creative part of these performances. The 10 small group wind ensembles had even created their own music to play for this event. Wallace said, “For me, it was the idea of making music and collaborating with friends. This gave them a chance to work with others toward something that helps them grow.” The collaboration certainly added to the experience, as each small group ensemble was able to create music that was representative of all members in their group. Wallace stated the goal of the production was to place different ensembles in different gardens. The addition of the creative component of diverse, original pieces of music in each garden positively contributed to that goal.

These performances brought light to the beginning of the fall semester. “Our current environment—with many performing arts organizations around the country and region postponing or canceling individual events and entire seasons—has certainly been frustrating for many,” said Ackman. “This event demonstrated our commitment to our students, our campus and our community by overcoming the negative aspects of the times and carrying on our creative work.”

COURTESY OF: SDSU Marketing & Communications

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