Lyric Theatre @ Illinois bringing back live performance

by Shelbi Voss

The pandemic has forced most live performances to go on hiatus. The theatre industry has been hit hard by this pause, as a number of professional productions have closed for good since the lengthy shutdown since last spring. But this semester Lyric Theatre @ Illinois has proven that live theatre can come back, just with a few changes.

Over the next two weekends the program will present Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days, a musical featuring a cast of four whose lives intertwine as they navigate school, relationships and life in New York City. The show will be presented at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on the outdoor amphitheater.

Although this is not Lyric Theatre’s first live performance of the year, it is the first full production to be done for a live audience. Last fall an outdoor concert was performed for a limited audience at Allerton Park and Retreat Center.

Over the last year, a number of performances have transferred to virtual mediums. Live-streams and pre-recorded shows have fulfilled the musical tastes of audience members, but for performers, looking out to empty seats is not the same. Junior Lyric Theatre major Madysen Simanonis plays Claire in the production. She said, “The audience brings a special sort of energy and excitement to a performance and I am just so beyond grateful to be able to perform with a live audience.”

Putting on a show these days comes with additional stresses. On campus, requirements like the Safer Illinois App and SHIELD testing make the process safe, but can also lead to cast members being unable to attend rehearsal if test results to not come back in time.

Junior Lyric Theatre major Lucy Economos serves as the female swing for Ordinary Days. Swings are always pivotal to a production, filling in for cast members who call out for the day, but during a pandemic, being the only swing means being on call at any time of the day, ready to fill in for either of the two female cast members.

The production has given students across numerous disciplines the chance to get out of the classroom and back to the stage. Whether on stage or in the wings, putting their time and energy into something that feels close to home is special.

Having that opportunity is escalated even more when very few people across the nation have that chance. Economos noted how impactful this experience has been, particularly when she thinks about how the performers who inspire her have been missing the stage for over a year. “It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that I am so lucky to get to be doing something when professionals who are above and beyond me aren’t even doing anything.”

Tune in to UI7 Live tomorrow at 7 p.m. for more.