The Drake Performance Center houses the Department of Theatre at Ohio State. The department has cancelled most productions for the spring semester. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State.

The curtains have closed on many performances and events from the Department of Theatre due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

After University President Michael V. Drake announced the cancellation of all campus events through April 20, multiple stage productions and screenings from the department were called off, including the DigiEYE short film screening that was set for March 18 and “Once Upon the Oval,” a theatrical celebration of Ohio State’s sesquicentennial, scheduled to open Thursday. Other productions have taken an online approach.

Nadine George-Graves, a professor in the dance and theater departments as well as director and producer of “Once Upon the Oval,” said that once the government began limiting large gatherings, it was evident that shows would be canceled.

“Even though it’s difficult, I think it gives students the time that they needed to figure out how to deal with the crisis,” George-Graves said. “And even if we could have been working on the show, it would have been very difficult with everybody trying to figure out how to stay healthy and check in on their loved ones and make sure everyone has what they need.”

Taylor Moriarty, a fourth-year in theater, said she felt lucky to be in a few shows prior to the outbreak, but was disappointed that two productions she was stage managing and performing in were canceled due to the pandemic.

“It’s kind of a really weird experience, especially as I am about to graduate,” Moriarty said. “There are these things I was planning on having on my resume that I now can’t have on my resume that would have hopefully, you know, could get me more auditions or more roles or more things out in the professional world.”

Despite the abrupt ending of her productions, Moriarty said she likes the way the Department of Theatre has handled the situation. She said she appreciates that the department is refunding students who were set to partake in events such as canceled study abroad theater programs and festival performances.

Elizabeth Wellman, a lecturer in the theater department, is in charge of the InterACT Theatre Project for Social Change, a collaboration between the department and University Center for the Advancement of Teaching that addresses social justice issues. 

Wellman said that this semester, the project involved 12 students from different majors who have been working on a piece about loneliness. Despite cancellations and campus closures, the students have been using Zoom and other technology to continue their projects.

She said the performances will be broadcast in April as short livestreams that make up a unified story, which will be kept online for anyone to watch.

Wellman said she is proud of the department’s response to the pandemic and knows how disappointing and scary this situation can be for students.

“Interactive, immersive art is so valuable, and I think the thing that we’re learning or being reminded of right now is how important those experiences are, how irreplaceable they are,” Wellman said. “We’re all really trying to replace them, but I think just remembering how important it is to be in the room together is invaluable.” 

Lia Dewey, a graduate theatre student and teaching associate, said her productions were canceled, but the faculty members involved are hoping for the shows to be moved to fall semester.

“We put all this work for a show that nobody would go to see, but I also think there’s a lot of hope,” Dewey said.