Despite restrictions put on them by COVID-19, the Seton Hall theatre program has prepared a production of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology—Spoon River Revisited.”
According to members of the cast, preparation for the play was done over Zoom for most of the rehearsal process. The cast said they missed the kinship and interconnectedness of rehearsing together in person, but that they made it work despite the difficulties.
“Our entire schedule consisted of Zoom rehearsals due to COVID-19 and wanting to follow CDC guidelines,” Haley Zemek, a junior visual and sound media and theatre major, said. “Most of the time, we worked individually on monologues, but there were times when we would join as a cast to further our understanding and make this show as great as it could be.”
The cast also welcomed guest director Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein, who worked with students on their production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” last year. Silver-Silberstein said she had a wonderful experience directing the students last year and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to return.
“It is so rewarding to be given the chance to produce theatre during this difficult, challenging and unusual time,” Silver-Silberstein said. “I feel so fortunate to have been able to help provide this experience for the students at SHU so they can continue to develop their craft and keep theatre in their lives.”
Silver-Silberstein said that Peter Reader, associate professor of theatre at Seton Hall, adapted Masters’ book of poetry into a play, choosing the most beautiful stories to tell, before asking her to come and direct. She said the play consists of a string of monologues that tell the stories of those that lived in Spoon River, Illinois, during the turn of the 20th century.
Some of the major themes addressed in the play include love, family, dreams, death and revenge, which Silver-Silberstein said still resonate today.
“We get to learn of the lives that were led by former citizens of Spoon River, Illinois,” Zemek said. “These people speak from the grave and share their epitaphs, while also giving a deeper look into their thwarted hopes and dreams.”
Zemek said she has seven monologues in total during the play, which consist of seven different characters who are dissimilar, but alike in many ways.
“I enjoy playing each character so much,” Zemek said. “They bring forth such strong-willed personalities and struggle with divorce, death and rape. I have very powerful monologues that just highlight how powerful of a show this really is.”
Melinda Primorac, a junior theatre, political science and philosophy major, said she hopes the audience will gain knowledge of the importance of theatre from the performance and that people will continue to support the arts in their communities.
“One of our major goals as a cast is to continue doing what we love as we navigate this new world of theatre in the age of COVID-19,” Primorac said. “I think this proves that it is possible to put out a socially distant performance with masks on. It is definitely different, but possible.”
“Spoon River Revisited” will be held in the Theatre-in-the-Round on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24 to an invited audience. A livestream will be available to view on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. as a part of Seton Hall Week.
Andrew Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.