This past weekend, Endicott College’s Mainstage Theater department premiered its new show, Work In Progress. Instead of Endicott adding its flair to an existing play, every aspect of the Work In Progress show was completely student-made. This includes everything from the songs, story, and even characters - all of which are entirely original and formed with the collaborative help of the whole department. However, the extent of student involvement in the production doesn’t end there.
In order to encourage a safe and healthy viewing environment, Work In Progress was exclusively performed through a digital livestream. Essentially, instead of having a live crowd full of supportive family members, Endicott students, and other patrons of the arts, viewers could safely and comfortably watch the show as it was broadcasted live to their homes. This live coverage was provided by ECTV (Endicott College Television), a mostly student-run club helmed by Professor Ellie Pye.
Those involved in the show’s coverage by ECTV were student volunteers, all with an interest and/or involvement in film and communications. The coverage itself consisted of several student-operated cameras, running and maintaining the livestream itself, the actors’ audio levels, and much more.
While the concept of a live-streamed, digitally recorded production seems unconventional in Endicott’s theater setting, the implementation of cameras and other video production equipment brought about a surprising amount of benefits. For example, one of the issues that the play faced was the use of masks - a necessary evil for the safety of the students involved. With their faces covered, it can be difficult to tell who is speaking, especially at times where there are several characters on stage. This is where the use of multiple camera angles in the digital production shined, as the camera’s focus would occasionally change to center the person speaking - making it easier for the at-home audience to direct their focus.
The actors themselves also helped to mediate this issue by performing in an especially expressive style, allowing the audience a better understanding of the intensity and emotions on display, even with the lack of facial expressions. The student-written story supports this need for extra expression, with the characters often performing everything from segments of creative performative dance, to loud Bukowski-esque modern soliloquies.
Going back behind the scenes, the use of multiple camera set-ups also helped to spotlight Endicott’s band, which performed their own (you guessed it) student-written songs in between acting segments. Instead of hiding backstage or taking the time to quickly come out and set up mid-performance, the viewing angle of the livestream simply switched to a camera elsewhere in the building, where the band was already fully set-up, ready, and playing.
Creative decisions were even made off-camera, with an impressive use of effects and technology. Digital screens were often projected onto the stage's backdrop, used to show elements such as live text conversations or photos taken by a character in that very scene. These additions helped to fully support the modern nature of the play - a factor already enhanced by the play’s digital presence.
Be it through intense, passionate performances by the actors, conveniences allowed by the use of digital camera capture, and creative decisions made by all, Work In Progress was able to offer a familiar, yet completely unique Endicott theater experience. While it’s unclear if next year’s show will be produced in a similar format, the Mainstage Theater department and ECTV have managed to successfully adapt and provide.