Suffolk student will direct virtual performance of ‘The Lover’

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Courtesy of Suffolk University Theatre Department

There’s an old saying in theater that the show must go on, even if that means performing the show virtually over Zoom during this unprecedented period of social distancing. 

Suffolk University’s switch to remote learning due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus meant that performances in the theatre department, including Stephanie Coyle’s production of “The Lover,” were cancelled. Originally scheduled for April 10 in the Sullivan Studio Theatre, the play was part of the ongoing Spotlight Series and was going to serve as her senior capstone project. 

Although she’s saddened the play can’t be presented in a live theater, as the director, she is working with what she has at her fingertips to put on a digital performance. 

“While I am grateful that we are still going to have an opportunity to put it on and have audiences hear the show, it’s still disappointing because this was my capstone and this is kind of what my whole theater education led up to,” said Coyle. 

“The Lover,” written by Harold Pinter, follows married couple Sarah and Richard as they navigate their marriage and separate affairs. Instead of a full production, the three person cast will be doing a reading of the 40-minute play over Zoom. The stage manager will also be reading stage cues to give viewers a greater sense of the show. 

“The Lover” was casted in the fall, and Coyle was having informal meetings with cast and crew members to discuss ideas for the play. Rehearsals were supposed to officially begin in mid-March after returning from spring break, but were cancelled when the campus closed. 

Since the virtual performance is a reading instead of a fully staged production, Coyle said the cast has had more time to work on developing their roles. One of the reasons the director is drawn to Pinter’s work is because his characters are easy for actors to dive into, and she is excited that her cast is able to focus on them more intently. 

“I was worried that in person we wouldn’t have enough time to kind of go deeper into [character development],” said Coyle. “In a way, I’m kind of grateful that we get a chance to have more opportunity for discussion about the characters.”

The cast and crew agree that a virtual performance is unorthodox and something they never saw themselves doing. Since theater is typically hands-on, Coyle has been meeting with her team remotely to brainstorm ways to successfully convert the show into a digital-friendly format. 

“We’re toying with some different technical elements and how we can use technology to our advantage in this circumstance as opposed to letting it inhibit our performance,” said sophomore Madlynn Bard, who will play the role of Sarah. 

Coyle said she is thankful that the cast, crew and theatre department have had her back throughout this process and want to showcase her work, however possible. Despite this sudden change in plans, she said no one’s work will go to waste. 

“I think the most challenging part overall is trying to bring to life the original vision that was intended by Stephanie and make her proud to do that and not take it away. There’s still ways to make it work,” said sophomore Mason Lafferty, who will play the role of Richard.

Although the Spotlight Series will not be followed by its usual pizza reception, the show will take place on Friday, April 10 at 5 p.m. It is free and open to everyone. The link for the Zoom webinar is here.