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OTC theater program adapts to pandemic with audio drama productions

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 10:28 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Coronavirus concerns have set a new stage when it comes to live theater. Students have made dramatic changes in learning and performing. A Springfield college is using entertainment from the past, and adapting it for the future.

“As a theater student, as a person of the arts, you know the show must go on, but how do you do that when all the shows are shut down,” said student Samantha Shay Phillips.

Samantha Shay Phillips got into the theater program at Ozarks Technical Community college to share her creativity with the world. Then, she said, the world as we know it, came to a halt.

Before stay-at-home orders and gathering limits shut down entertainment venues across the country last spring, OTC Theater students were showcasing their acting and script-writing skills on local stages like the Gilloiz and the Springfield Art Museum. They were putting on two productions a year.

“Even though we couldn’t do what we’d always done, that didn’t mean it had to be over,” Phillips said.

Jonathan Herbert, Theater Instructor in the Department of Fine Arts and Humanities, came up with the idea for Behind The Eye productions. His students now take plays off the stage and turning them into audio dramas.

“This kind of entertainment was, if you weren’t able to go to a live you sat around your radio and listened to this and I think that given the rise in podcast listening and people starting podcasts, I think people have responded to this crisis in a way that was almost predictable,” Herbert said.

His students help write, direct and perform the productions.

“Everybody, every step along the way, I think we just saw this as a really excellent way to adapt,” Herbert said.

The students in Jeffrey Johnson’s Electronic Media Production program help produce the projects in their studio with sound effects and audio engineering.

“I think it’s something they can use to get jobs at some point and so that’s something that’s super important for me as an instructor to be able to give them something that’s going to get them employed,” Johnson said.

The team already has two dramas finished and plans to have a third done in a few weeks. Students like Phillips said this creative collaboration will keep the theater world moving forward.

“We can take that and innovate further so even though we’ll get our plays and everything again, we’ll still get to have this opportunity as well,” Phillips said.

The theater and audio programs plan to continue the productions even after the pandemic is over. Herbert said he plans to expand Behind the Eye Productions through a podcast and website.

Herbert said local theater production companies on all levels- youth, collegiate and professional- have struggled throughout the pandemic and need all the support they can get as theaters start to reopen.

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