Every year, Ursinus College hosts a Fringe Festival on campus showcasing the work of talented student artists. These pieces have traditionally included one-act plays and other community-driven events directed, acted, and casted by members of Breakaway Student Productions (BSP), the student-run theatre group whose aim is to increase the appreciation of theatre on campus. Given the current climate due to COVID-19, this year’s Fringe Festival will be held virtually. Although the college is still adjusting to the new semester and ways of learning, clubs and organizations like BSP are making sure to continue the community tradition.
The Fringe Festival has always been the perfect opportunity for BSP to execute its mission statement. Donovan Erskine, vice president of BSP, explains what the festival means to the campus theater group. “Fringe Festival, universally, is theater and performing artists seeking freedom to perform and do what they want without pressure from the established theater community,” he said. “So, Breakaway Student Productions fits perfectly with this narrative, as it was created for student theater artists by student theater artists.”
There will be challenges. Primarily, the thought of “doing theater over Zoom, or without a live audience, will take away from the authentic theater experience,” Donovan said. Also, “as vice president, I have to keep the chain of communication open with ALL directors, casts, and designers. Since a large number of people are not on campus, communication is increasingly difficult.”
Indeed, a lack of communication can cause many to lose motivation in projects or works they have been passionate about. Despite these stressful times, BSP has gotten most of their productions completed. Out of the four one-acts directed by in-person students, two will be filmed live while the other half will be done via Zoom recording. There are also five remote directors (both current students and 2020 alum) who will do audio-only performances. Additionally, Donovan stated, “there will be a cabaret of student artists of all kinds and a 24-hour theater challenge.” All performances and events will be available for viewing via a Fringe Fest website that is yet to be established.
If anything physical will be missed, student leaders expect it to be having an actual audience present and watching the performances in-person. “Without an audience theater is almost impossible,” Donovan pointed out. “Obviously, it is impossible for audiences to convene in a theater space for a long time. [However], your local theatres and theatre artists [need] support. Please go out and donate to organizations like the Actors Fund for all entertainment workers in the age of COVID.”
The virtual Fringe Festival will be held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 2020.