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Adjusting to Virtual Acting: Frankenstein
Ruthie Spencer ‘22 - Staff Writer
October 31, 2020

In a normal year, Deerfield actors would be rehearsing lines, blocking scenes on stage, interacting with each other, and preparing for a performance in the Black Box Theatre. There would be a buzz in the air, with students, faculty, and staff alike rushing to get tickets, and a contagious excitement to watch peers perform. But this isn’t a normal year. 

Because of COVID-19, person-to-person interactions have been much more limited, but the emotion and hard work that factor into performances remain unchanged. The theater department maintains its spirit of determination and grit as it tackles Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” in the form of both a radio play and a film of the process. 

Theater Director Catriona Hynds said, “I don’t think Deerfield Academy has ever done a radio play… I am really rather enjoying it!”

But what is a radio play? The definition is in the words themselves — it’s as if you were listening to the play on a radio. Most of the acting will be done through voice cues and emotions displayed through speaking, rather than movement. 

Preparation for this radio play feels different as well. Grey Holmén ’21, who plays Victor Frankenstein, said, “It feels strange not to be standing up during rehearsal, actively blocking each scene with movements.” 

One of the interesting new aspects of voice acting is sound mixing. While the acting is considerably easier because actors no longer have to memorize lines, or act “off-book” (without a script), a new challenge has arisen about how actors can convey emotions that would normally be visually and inferentially perceived by the audience. 

Actress Elsa Marrian ’21 says, “The initial preparations of the production have actually been quite similar to a normal Deerfield play. I think the biggest and most obvious difference is that we’re not staging the play so most of the rehearsal time has been devoted to vocal dexterity and pronunciation.”

Adding to the new facets of this play, Mrs. Hynds said, “There are around 200 cues mentioned in the text, and the technical team [is] responsible for creating sounds such as fire, rustling leaves, and all of the weird noises in the lab where Frankenstein makes the Creature.” The program is bringing in a professional sound mixer to tape the show, and the taping will be available on the Bulletin by the end of the term.

However, the radio play is not the only part being released to the Deerfield public. The theater program is also releasing a film of the production so viewers can understand the backstage process of the play’s creation. 

Mrs. Hynds said, “We want you to see how each sound effect is made, and how we have transformed the theater into a safe recording studio, which is why we are filming it too.” 

Thus, as viewers, we will both be able to listen to and watch the making of “Frankenstein.” With a great cast, and a new way of viewing, we can expect that this play, to quote Holmén, “will be one for the history books, for sure.”