By Chelsie Derman
With the College moving to an online-only format for the fall, theatre groups like All College Theatre (ACT), TCNJ Musical Theatre (TMT) and Lyric Theatre are moving away from in-person performances and working on productions in an online format — and for TMT, the organization is in a “blackout” for the semester and will continue production in the spring.
“With the state of our organization right now, we are having difficulty finding a way to move forward. Our executive board is not communicating well, our membership is unhappy, our constitution needs major improvements, and our mental health is deteriorating,” said Molly Hurst, the president of TMT and a rising junior history and secondary education dual major.
After controversy swirling within the organization due to a dispute between publicist Alexis “Lexie” Nicol, a sophomore music education major, and other members of the organization, the executive board decided to self-suspend TMT for the fall. The Signal reached out to Nicol, but she declined to comment.
“There is much to digest and much to mourn, but know that I am here with you all every step of the way,” Hurst said in an email to TMT members obtained by The Signal. “Despite this ‘blackout,’ please know I am committed to this position entirely. I will strive to make the best decisions for TMT and amplify your voices and make sure you all feel heard.”
As for Lyric Theatre, “We are going to make it work in the fall,” said Grace Roscoe, a sophomore history and secondary education dual major who is currently enrolled in the course for the fall. In an interview with The Signal, she talked positively about the open communication between Professor Little and her students. They had met twice on Zoom during summer break to discuss the fall show, and are proceeding with weekly meetings.
“We’re definitely going to be more likely doing things that involve a lot of recording,” Roscoe said. “I know we are hoping to utilize some of the recording studios that I believe that radio station uses, to get some of the more high-quality recordings for our piece in the fall.”
Director Jennifer Little confirmed that students will not be required to record on campus and can record from the safety of their homes. In order for this to be possible, Lyric Theatre is still tied between two musical choices: “Working” by Stephen Shwartz and “Songs from a New World” by Jason Robert Brown.
“The reason we looked at those (musicals) is because they are a series of solos and duets,” Little said. “So our thought is that we can do a virtual performance of that.”
While Lyric Theatre already has plans for the online-adaption, the theatre group ACT is still figuring out what their show online will look like.
“This fall we’re intending on creating an online production of ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ by Cheryl Strayed, and hopefully it’s a show that will lend itself to a Zoom recording or however we end up conducting a virtual performance,” said ACT President Ambar Grullón, a senior English major.
While both Lyric Theatre and ACT are looking forward to putting on a show – even if virtually – both theatre groups expressed doubt when asked how smoothly the fall semester will go.
“I think the biggest struggle if we’re just talking production is just making sure our membership still feels like they can get involved because of production,” Grullón said. “And theatre is meant to be live. There’s a lot of physical, interpersonal connections made. It’s concerning because we’re going to have to strip some departments of their roles or have to convert it to online formats and we’re not sure we can guarantee that people will still be interested. So we’re going to try to market it as inclusive and as open and accessible as possible.”
Although the fall will be nowhere near ordinary, theatre groups recognize the lack of community and are acting on it.
“Theatre has always been an emotional outlet,” Grullón said. “It will continue to be that in the fall regardless of whether we’re in person or not, and ACT is here for anyone willing to try something new or for anyone who wants to return to theatre.”