By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
A lot of time, energy and care went into the creation of the outdoor stage in front of the College of Fine Arts and Production Building. The response proved that the effort was worth it.
Technical Director Brad Cozby said the five performances of Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" last week averaged 360 viewers between the in-person and online audiences. By comparison, the capacity of Ethington Theatre -- where stage productions take place in normal, pandemic-less times -- is 311.
The stage, which took several weeks to complete, provided socially distanced seating for 49 people and was sold out every night. COFAP Assistant Dean William Symington said the outdoor atmosphere worked out exactly the way he had hoped.
“I think people were hungry for things to do. There was a really good energy to having it outdoors,” he said, adding that people walking by would stop and watch, sometimes even throwing down a picnic blanket.
"Maybe it drew in people who might normally not go to a theatre show," he said. “Having it outside just made it that much more accessible. A lot of audience members commented on how fun it was.”
There were some obstacles in the outdoor performances, such as having to move equipment more frequently to keep it protected from weather, but Symington said that the most challenging part is over. Since the stage is already assembled, he believes that preparing it for future productions should be easier.
In addition to selling out the in-person seats, the live recording of the production has pulled in more that 1,500 views on YouTube. Making the show available online brought in audiences from a surprising number of locations.
“We had people watching all across the country and as far away as Mexico,” Symington said. “We’re thrilled. It was so much work, it was so hard battling the heat because it’s so hard to build anything outside.
“The students and student workers really stepped up, our staff, Brad and Patrick (MacDonald) and everyone really worked so hard, and their dedication is the only reason that we pulled this off. We’re incredibly proud of them.”
Symington also praised the video team that helped make the livestream possible. The response was so positive, Symington hopes to continue livestreaming Ethington plays post-COVID and also would like to have some plays be performed outside when the weather is nice.
As for future innovations, Cozby and Symington said that they plan to continue working on the deck of the stage to make it waterproof and also want to add more lights.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
GCU Today: ‘Comedy of Errors’ kicks off outdoor theatre season