Student-written theater production examines lessons of pandemic | Community

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s student actors will return to the stage for the first time in two years next week with a new student-created theater piece.

Students will perform “Can We Get There from Here?” four times in the Studio Theater in Blaisdell Hall: 1 pm April 6, 7:30 pm April 7 and 9, and 2 pm April 10. Cost for the show is $2 for all students and $6 for the public. Facial coverings are optional for performers and audience members.

“We started with the strong sense of loss and of missing the theater, the artform that is the exact opposite of social distancing,” said Dr. Kevin Ewert, professor of theater and director who worked with students to create five stories of isolation informed by people’s experiences of disconnection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to reconnect with audiences in a shared space at a shared time with something new that spoke to some of the things we are all feeling,” he said.

During the first year of the pandemic, performances with live audiences were not possible at Pitt-Bradford. After students did not return to campus after spring break in March 2020, Ewert and his students quickly adapted their play into a podcast. That fall, they told stories through a mix of online performances and installation pieces on campus, including one that invited members of the campus community to look through a literal frame placed on campus with a student’s interpretation of the scene.

It was a relief for Ewert and students to reconnect face-to-face and exciting for them to anticipate the return to a live audience.

“We talked a lot about isolation and connection, but as we were developing scenes and characters, we made a vow never to mention the word COVID,” Ewert said. “Instead, we created a number of vivid scenarios — all inhabiting different times and different places — and worked to interweave them in such a way as to invite our audience to make the connections.”

What they came up with were stories of a prisoner in solitary confinement, a teenager in her room, a man racing through an airport in hell, a mom facing eviction and a refugee adrift at sea. Ewert said, “They are stories of five people looking desperately for connections and wondering, can we get there from here?”

Students taking part in the performance are Isaac Gullifer, a criminal justice major from Kane; Anna Killingbeck, a forensic science major from Chaffee, NY; Izynae Moore-Grimes, a writing major from Philadelphia; Paige Nootbaar, an interdisciplinary arts major from Pittsburgh; and Andrew Truman, a broadcast communications major from Bradford.

To purchase tickets in advance, visit www.upb.pitt.edu/TheArts, call 814-362-5113 or visit the box office in Blaisdell Hall between 11:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.

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