Back on stage: Cal U Theatre returns to live performances

After a year of virtual theater, students finally return to the theater stage at CalU.


Kelley Tunney

First-year students at California University of Pennsylvania presented The Legend(s) of Sleepy Hollow in Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre, Oct. 21 – 24, 2021

Chris Girardi, Staff Writer

The Cal U Theatre endured numerous setbacks this semester from COVID as the department prepared for its production of “The Legend(s) of Sleepy Hollow.”

After a full academic year of having to record their theatrical productions, “The Legend(s) of Sleepy Hollow” will be the first production that will be presented to a live audience since COVID hit.

As far back as the fall semester of 2020 when classes at Cal U were completely online, the Cal U Theatre continued with their show called “Goose Rumps” while all of the students were still at home. Assistant professor John Paul “JP” Staszel and director of “Sleepy Hollow” said the goal at that point was to record everything and then stream it.

“We purchased portable film kits and we sent cameras, tripods, microphones, recording packs, green screen, and simple lighting instruments to help set up their home recording studio,” Staszel said. “Students weren’t just student actors, they were student technicians, and film crew, and designers.”

Staszel said they’d have to troubleshoot all of the problems each person had individually, it was a unique challenge, because the problems were always different, never the same. Most of the students would spend close to 4 hours to setup before beginning their recording.

“I will never respect another group of young students like the ones from last fall, for all the work they figured out how to capture for us,” Staszel said.

In the spring semester of 2021, a portion the students and faculty were brought back to Cal U as part of its graduate reopening, the Cal U Theatre was reopened on campus on this time as well.

“The university supported our comeback, as long we go by the safety protocol,” said Staszel. “The university wants to make sure the students are getting the best experience they can. As close to ‘normal’ that’s within our power.”

Staszel said the transition from online back to in-person was much more difficult since we have to follow the mask mandate and other COVID restrictions, which would restrict the actors.

“Without seeing the rest of the rest of the face, their eyes do nothing to express their face,” Staszel said “In the art of verbally storytelling the lips, mouth, and teeth are so important. We buy it, but it’s not as great, because we can’t see the artist, we don’t know how they feel.”

Staszel said while the 2021 spring semester show of “Dear Edwina” would be recorded as well, the fall semester would be different since the COVID restrictions had loosened.