Nicole Rodil | Contributing Writer
FIU Theatre is breaking the barriers of distance and communication with a unique form of acting.
For two consecutive weeks, professor Micheal Yawney and seven students from FIU Theatre embarked on a special theatrical project. Through FIU’s Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), the seven students were joined virtually by five students from Coventry University over 4,500 miles in the UK to rehearse Shakespeare’s Pericles.
Although Coventry University has been doing this for a few years at a few different places, this was FIU’s first time ever participating in something like this – but the experience has left them yearning for more like it.
Through the live video feed, students worked tirelessly to bridge the gap of space and spark the intimacy that is usually conveyed through touch and presence on a stage, from a screen.
“I think we are coming out of this with a deeper understanding and a deeper knowledge of how we could work at a distance.” said associate professor Micheal Yawney.
The virtual rehearsals were an exciting buildup to the UK students flying out to Miami for an open to the public rehearsal on Feb. 3, meeting their fellow actors in person for the first time and learning to interact in new ways.
“It gets to the point where the technology becomes invisible,” said Yawney. “When we finally met them, we would just start talking only to realize, wait a minute, we’ve never actually met before, but it felt like we knew each other.”
After only communicating through a screen for the past two weeks, the students began truly connecting with each other in ways they never thought possible.
“This raises questions like, is it possible to be more intimate through Telepresence than in actuality?” said Yawney. “When you talk to someone on the phone, you say things you would never say in real life. It becomes more open and more honest and more intimate. And what could that mean for performance?”
This idea of being close while so far away is what gravitated the theatre department to this project in the first place. Exercising muscles that are important for actors to use, such as reading vocal and facial cues and expressing affinity without physical reliance.
The seven students from FIU theatre that participated in this event, were not chosen, but rather volunteered for the experience. The project was open to students from all different years, backgrounds, and training levels.
This mixed with the diversity that was present in Coventry University led to the learning and exploring of their different cultures .
“The chance to work with other students who have been trained in a completely different way, and come from a completely different place, it’s pretty exciting,” Yawney said.
This ties into the diversity imperative here at FIU.
“We are an international university, our students have rates in other countries. Could we possibly create work with the people in the homelands of our students? And what would it mean if we did that?” continued Yawney.
Instead of audiences going to see a solidified rehearsal like what they are used to, they were hoping to display those moments of discovery, where a different move or choice that an actor makes can truly impact the whole piece.
“When we’re working on this play, it’s going to be something that never existed before, even though the play has been around forever,” said Yawney
Although Coventry University has been doing this for a few years at a few different places, this was FIU’s first time ever participating in something like this– but the experience has left them yearning for more like it.
“What’s the next step now? That’s really what to ask once this is over,” said Yawney . “So I have no answers. I don’t even really have the questions. But what this is doing is opening up possibilities, and that’s really the point of this, to ask: how far can we push this?”