Hushed murmurs of anticipation lingered in the air. The house lights dimmed and so did the audience's voices. Stage lights flashed bright, and the actors took their places.
After 578 days, roughly a year and a half, in darkness, the McGuire Pavilion Black Box Theatre was illuminated by spotlights once again. On Sept. 16, The School of Theatre and Dance at UF presented “Dog Act,” the school’s first live in-person performance since February 2020.
The play is set in a post-apocalyptic world with the characters exploring the “new normal,” an uncanny resemblance to reality in a post-pandemic world, according to the show’s program.
The story’s message is that art will survive anything, said Elisabeth Reyes, the play’s assistant director.
“Art is what holds us together and shows humanity, and it will live on no matter what,” the telecommunications and general theater senior said.
A unique kind of joy was alive in every audience, cast and crew member. The thrill of live theatre was back.
Seeing her daughter participate in the performance, Debi McAvoy was excited to see people doing what they love as a form of self-expression.
“I think it’s an incredibly important part of our lives, of humanity and of perpetuation of the arts,” she said.
The black box theatre experience created an intimate environment between the audience and the six actors. The actors performed scenes from the floor just a few feet from the audience, keeping the crowd in the palms of their hands.
After 19 months waiting for a return, the performers were ecstatic to be back on stage.
“There’s something so special about being in the room with people while it’s happening,” said Brooke Livingston, an actress in the play. “It’s so refreshing to be able to come back to this. It’s almost like coming back home.”
The UF acting senior’s last time on a stage was January 2020. While the theatre program had performances last year, most were done through Zoom. Actors performed from their rooms through the virtual format, she said.
Now, the live experience is back, but the actors and crew members are posed with a new challenge to their art: They must wear masks while they rehearse and perform.
“At first it was pretty jarring; you don’t realize how much you rely on your face for storytelling,” Livingston said. “I feel like everything is coming full circle. In ancient Greek theatre, they used to always wear masks, so they focused on how the sound of their voice was.”
Livingston said she feels that this has challenged her and her peers to find new ways to create their art and continue telling stories.
“They’ve done a great job,” Reyes said. “They’ve really risen to the occasion.”
Reyes said it feels amazing to be back in the same space with each other and the audience. The actors do their best in front of live people, and the energy is heightened with live reactions, she said.
“I’m really excited for people to come watch it,” Reyes said. “I think this is the perfect show to come back with.”
The performance is held weekdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. until Sept. 26. There are no showings Monday and Saturday.
Contact Elena Barrera at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elenabarreraaa.
Elena is a second-year journalism major with a minor in health sciences. She is currently reporting on University news for The Alligator. When she is not writing, Elena loves to work out, go to the beach and spend time with her friends and family