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Return to Theater: Calhoun staging scenes and monologues from Shakespearean plays

, Decatur Daily

After shutting down rehearsals twice due to positive coronavirus cases and deciding between virtual, outdoor and inside performances, the Calhoun Community College Theatre Department welcomed audiences back to the Alabama Center for the Arts’ black box theater on Sunday.

“We had a packed house. Because of the coronavirus, we limited the number of audience members to 50 and we had 50. We actually had to turn people away,” said Lauren Cantrell Salerno, theater instructor.

Calhoun Theatre will stage additional performances of “Tempest and Temperance: Scenes from Shakespeare” today and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. Tickets are free, but limited to the first 50 people who arrive at the Alabama Center for the Arts on Second Avenue in downtown Decatur.

As some theaters announced temporary closures until January and others opted for virtual performances, Calhoun began planning for the possibility of an in-person performance. To increase the odds of a live performance, Bill Provin selected “Tempest and Temperance,” a compilation of monologues and scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, for the cast to perform.

“Each scene features one actor or only a few actors,” said Provin, theater and English instructor. “When the actors are not in a scene, they are on the side of the stage with their masks on.”

After discussing the idea of a virtual performance and then an outdoor staging, Provin and Cantrell Salerno pitched the idea of an in-person experience with masks and limited seating at the theater, which, currently, can hold 120 audience members.

To abide by safety guidelines, Calhoun Theatre is requiring audience members to wear masks. Performing to a masked audience represents a new experience for the actors.

“You would think it may be difficult, but it isn’t. Even though we couldn’t see their mouths, they still responded vocally,” said actor Trey Gulley.

“Strange as it is, this is almost like our new normal,” Provin said.

Gulley will share the stage with Chelsea Baker, Carolina Riddle, Madi Rost, Mary Graben, Anna Grace Nelson, Trizel Johnson, Will Parker, Marcus Patten and more.

The 23-member company will perform scenes from “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Othello,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” Provin adapted some of the scenes to address the coronavirus.

Provin and Salerno credited the company’s flexibility and adaptability for ensuring the play’s live performances.

“We really wanted to have live theater. It is very important, especially for a place like Calhoun, to have these events for the students and community, because not much else is going on,” Provin said.

Along with scenes and monologues, the performance features a few songs and dance numbers. This marks the department’s first production since the first week in March. For more information, call 256-306-2693.

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