When Ferris’ mask mandate was lifted, one thing was able to return to normal: the spring play.
Over the weekend, the theatre department put on four performances of the play “Bethel Park Falls,” written by Jason Pizzarello. For the first time since the pandemic began, the actors were able to perform without masks.
“Everyone was very happy to be performing without masks,” Katherine LaPietra, a Ferris professor of theater performance and the director of the play, said. “We had rehearsed the whole process in masks. Taking them off was a great relief to all. It was much easier to enunciate and be understood. It was also quite nice to be fully able to see the actors’ expressions, which are wonderful.”
The decision to go without masks for the play came after the university lifted the mask mandate for non-instructional spaces. Prior to the lift, the cast and crew had planned on wearing masks during their performances. The decision to perform without masks was made by LaPietra with the support of co-workers and the theater department chair.
The play followed the residents of Bethel as their town park is set to be closed and bulldozed. Residents reminisce about their past experiences in the park, including proposals and father-son fishing trips. They connect with one another over shared experiences and their own dilemmas.
The cast consisted of 19 actors and various backstage crew. The majors of the cast and crew ranged from digital animation and game design, to construction management, to mechanical engineering technology.
One of the characters was Glenn, a father whose wife was having an affair while also, unknown to him, battling breast cancer. Glenn was played by Tevin Clum, a senior in the TDMP program. This was Clum’s first face-to-face production since the start of COVID-19.
“I feel happy that we’re able to perform without our masks,” Clum said. “Theatre isn’t the same when you can’t see the actors’ faces. You feel a sort of disconnect from their emotions when you’re masked up. And after being in masks for so long, it’s so nice to see everyone’s faces. There are some people in the cast that I had never known what they looked like until now, so things like that end up being a small blessing.”
LaPietra decided on “Bethel Park Falls” as the spring play after reading the show last year. She thought the play was “funny, heartwarming and gently thought provoking.” LaPietra also said the cast size was a good match for the number of actors she anticipated having, and the structure of the play “made the show ideal to rehearse during this time of COVID.”
“It kept the cast separate, but still able to be part of a whole,” LaPietra said. “Also, we could have bought streaming rights to the show if necessary. Not all shows can be streamed, and we had to choose something that could, just in case.”
The theater department was able to avoid streaming the show and held performances in person. Audience members got to experience the play as they would have pre-COVID-19.