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Sopris Theatre Company rehearsal

From left, Midge Glidewell, Mary San Miguel, Colton Grove and Kestra Arrington block out a scene for “Rogues’ Gallery,” Sopris Theatre Company’s first virtual production of 2020-21, Nov. 6-15. The company is adopting new techniques such as green screens and physical distancing as they rehearse for the new season.

By Kristin Carlson

Making theater in the time of COVID-19 is challenging, but the staff and students of Colorado Mountain College’s theater program are committed to engaging audiences with an unconventionally exciting season.

Brad Moore, theater operations manager of Sopris Theatre Company and adjunct instructor, explained that the upcoming slate of shows has been chosen mindfully, to ensure that every piece can be performed virtually or live, by physically distanced actors following all safety guidelines. As in past years, cast and crew are selected from among CMC students and community members.

“This season we’re revisualizing what we’re doing,” said Moore. “We’re doing some improvising, thinking in new ways and reevaluating our programming.”

Right now, only Moore’s theater production students are meeting in person, distanced and wearing masks. “We also have face shields, gloves, and a system for hand-washing and disinfecting shared areas,” Moore said.

In addition, production management duties now include cleaning and disinfecting props and costumes, as well as attaining necessary duplicate props to support the illusion that actors in distanced, virtual settings are in the same space.

The season opens with “Rogues’ Gallery,” featuring 10 unique character monologues, allowing actors to maintain physical distance as only one speaker is onstage at any given moment. Other shows include a compilation of three short comedies called “Three Viewings” and the fast-paced relationship knots of “The Nina Variations.”  Both offer ample casting and performance flexibility to address shifting COVID-19 concerns.

When, and if, live shows move forward, audience safety will be paramount. “We’ve designed a traffic pattern in and out of the theater to maintain distance,” said Moore.  “There will be no intermissions. People will usher, but no one will be allowed to congregate in the lobby.” In addition, distanced volunteers will help take temperatures and hand out masks to patrons who don’t have them.

One silver lining for this year’s productions is that audiences won’t be limited to those living within driving distance of the Roaring Fork Valley, but can include viewers throughout the seven-county CMC district, and farther beyond, who can now “go” to the theater virtually.

Moore is impressed by the way his students are adapting. “They realize it’s a privilege to be together and making art,” he said.

Sopris Theatre Company at CMC: 2020-21 season schedule

“Rogues’ Gallery” by John Patrick Shanley

Ten bizarre, explosive and darkly humorous monologues from this Pulitzer winner, about the absurdity of being human

November 6, 7, 13, 14 at 7 p.m.

November 8, 15 at 2 p.m.

“Three Viewings” by Jeffrey Hatcher

Three dark comedy shorts set in a Midwestern funeral parlor

February 19, 20, 26, 27 at 7 p.m.

February 21, 28 at 2 p.m.

“Nina Variations” by Steven Dietz

An homage to Chekhov’s “The Seagull” that examines one couple’s fiercely funny romantic entanglements in 43 variations

April 9, 10, 16, 17 at 7 p.m.

April 11, 18 at 2 p.m.

Student workshop productions

Original works by CMC theater students

April 29 at 7 p.m.