Fresno State’s student theater company returns with Part 2 of ‘Shelter-in-Plays’
By Karen Avila
Fresno State’s Experimental Theatre Company is putting on the second installment of “Shelter-in-Plays.” The virtual production premieres today (Friday, April 16) on YouTube and is free.
ETC is a student-led company that typically puts together one show each semester. Last semester, the students had to go virtual for the first time as a result of the pandemic. The students came together and decided to create “Shelter-in-Plays,” a show that features four to five original plays instead of the usual one full-length play.
Pictured above: “Asi es la Vida’ was written and directed by JJ Valentin. Photo: Fresno State
“Shelter-in-Plays: Part Two” features four different plays ranging from romantic comedy to a Spanish-language offering. The original virtual plays are “Love Letters from Someone Who’s Not in Love,” written by Emily King and directed by Alexis Gonzalez; “Marital Madness,” written and directed by Santiago Batista; “Así es la Vida,” written and directed by JJ Valentin; and “The Interview,” written and directed by Arashnoor Gill.
ETC was not allowed to do anything in person because of the pandemic, but the students decided to look at the pandemic as an opportunity to create something different and grow artists.
“It gave us a lovely opportunity to try something new because a lot of people haven’t done virtual theater. It gave us an opportunity even though it punched us in the stomach,” said Dylan Mark Murphy, ETC chair.
Virtual theater can be tough because the actors don’t have the usual face-to-face action and don’t have the audience’s live reactions to bounce off.
“Oh my god, it’s awful,” Murphy said. “I guess awful is not the word. It is very difficult because I’m someone who feeds off of audience reactions because I’m typically playing like a hyper-comical character.Tto act in front of a camera, you’re not getting a reaction from the audience. You have to create the audience in your mind. It is just so drastically different that it’s difficult.”
According to Murphy and Alexis Gonzalez, director of “Love Letters From Someone Who’s Not in Love,” problems included scheduling and time management. It is tough trying to put together a show when people may not be available at the same time because of their hectic schedules. The first time, the directors were so laid back they didn’t have any hard deadlines and that made it difficult to finish at the same time. This time, they came up with stricter schedules.
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Despite not being able to perform in front of an audience, virtual theater has some advantages. Murphy and Gonzalez said that going virtual actually can make theater more accessible for audiences. Virtual theater is perfect for people who may not do well in a theater environment or for people who may not have the time or money to go see a show in person. It is also available to stream anytime once it is uploaded, which allows the project to reach a wider audience.
Murphy said this installment of “Shelter-in-Plays” is “bigger” than what was seen last semester. “There’s animation and different types of visuals and lots of audio-related stuff,” he said. “You are gonna see something that you’ve never seen before.”
‘Shelter-in-Plays: Part Two’ will stream free on the University Theatre YouTube Channel beginning with the premiere on Friday, April 16, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. and continuing indefinitely. A special pre-premiere Facebook Live event will be held 7 p.m. April 16 on the University Theatre Facebook page. The Facebook Live event will include the writers and directors of the original virtual plays. For more information, contact the box office at 559.278.7512 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Avila is a Fresno State student. She wrote this article for Donald Munro’s MCJ 2 media-writing class.