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“Arlo Whittaker and the 12th Night Murder:” The Production Made for the COVID-19 Era

By Drew Pierce | Published on in Arts and Culture, Ball State, Entertainment, Local News
Photo: David Little

COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings have put a damper on live theater productions; however, one Ball State University Department of Theater production may be the perfect fit for this challenging era.

“Arlo Whittaker and the 12th Night Murder” writer and director, and assistant teaching professor David Little stepped up to the plate and created a work that had the flexibility to meet the pandemic requirements.

“Because we will have multiple cameras, and I am a theater artist and not a film or television person, I have to start thinking about getting close ups at certain points,” Little said. “I submitted this piece mostly because it was a radio play and there is a large amount of versatility that could be utilized when producing it.”

The story is about a director, Whittaker, and there is a murder set, so he has to devote all of his time to solving it so the show can go on.  There are a number of supporting characters and even a hint of romance sprinkled throughout.

The interesting dynamic of performing on stage but to an audience at home is one that brings excitement, nerves and a unique twist to this art form. Junior Carmia Lowe says this is the perfect opportunity to seize the moment and gain valuable skills as a performer.

“I always take things as an opportunity to learn something new,” Lowe said. “I think it is a fun challenge, and hopefully when everything is back to normal, we will never have to do it again. It is just cool to learn and be a part of this new wave of theater…”

Because of mask use and social distancing, the rehearsal process has forced the actors to get creative and find new ways to get into character. Having a piece of fabric over part of the face takes away a big chunk of what can be done on stage. Sophomore Ben Brock is playing the title character, Arlo Whittaker, and takes this opportunity as one to push the limits of acting.

“It offers challenges in how you partner with your other castmates, but you find creative ways to get around those and exaggerate your expressions,” Brock said. “Since we will be working with just 40% of our face wearing masks, you start to lean into the physicality.”

Tickets to the livestream can be purchased through the University Theatre and the production will take place April 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Drew Pierce is a reporter for a Ball State University arts journalism class.