PSU theatre explores completely virtual performance in new play ‘The Wolves’

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun
The cast of PSU's new play "The Wolves" wait for the cameras to be set up at the Plaster Center Monday night. The play is completely virtual and will premiere March 4.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Plaster Center on Pittsburg State University’s campus is usually brimming with athletes of all sports. The volleyball team spends their time in the gyms training, while the track team practices sprints on the indoor track.  

However, in a strange turn of events, this week the Plaster center was the home of PSU’s theater department as they filmed their latest production, “The Wolves”.  

Live theatre during the COVID-19 area has been hard to achieve safely. Departments at schools and universities across the country have been forced to use their creative chops to figure out ways to still allow students to perform. For the director of PSU’s latest play and an associate professor in the Department of Communication, Gil Cooper, that meant leaning into the filming side of performing while still trying to honor the essence of live theatre. 

“This gives them experience doing film and lets them if that’s something they want to do in the future,” Cooper said, “because this is what it's like. The waiting around for the cameras to get set up and whatnot.”  

This week, the play’s cast and crew commandeered the turf field at the Plaster Center to film a play about a teenage girls' indoor soccer team.  

“It's a perfect set for the play,” Cooper said. “It’s actually very cool that we get to use it, because normally we would have just been performing this on a stage.”  

Unlike other filmed plays that according to Cooper are sometimes just filming the actors on a stage, they have placed the characters in a realistic setting this time, and with multiple cameras stationed at different angles around the field, the audience experience could more closely resemble that of watching a movie rather than a play.  

However, to keep some of beloved qualities of live-theatre intact, while filming the actors ran through the play as normal as possible—meaning no extraneous cuts or going back to reshoot scenes over and over. Cooper highlighted that this would not have been possible without the help of Dr. Troy Comeau, PSU’s director of broadcasting.  

The cast of ten, all female, is excited to be able to perform, but recognizes that it's kind of a weird performing experience with all of the cameras and no audience.  

“This show is a really funny show and it's got a lot of laughs in it,” said Haily Denton, who plays #2, “and it's so weird in such a dry area with all the cameras where everyone has to be quiet.”  

Despite the unfamiliar performing circumstances, both the cast and crew love the play and the message it sends.  

“I love that it shows a sense of community in high schoolers,” said Madison Correll, who plays #11. “I think it really highlights young women and some of the relationships they can have with each other. I think it is really a great showcase of feminine energy and the rawness of it.”  

The show centers around a high school girls’ indoor soccer team. Cooper says each scene takes place before or in between games so the focus is less on the actual sport and more on the relationship and problems the characters are facing.  

“Most shows that revolve around a sport focus on the action of the game or the feeling of victory,” Cooper said. “But this steers away from that kind of and focuses more on the dynamic of the team and the issue and problems teenage girls deal with.”  

Cooper also said the characters are not referred to as their real names throughout the show and are merely identified by their numbers.  

“You don’t really hear any of their names until the last scene,” Cooper said. “Which makes the audience curious about which character they are talking about when they are used.”  

The show originally was set to premiere this weekend, however due to unforeseen snowstorms, Cooper said they moved the premiere to next weekend, March 4 through 7, giving their video team and editor more time to put the video of the performance together.  

Anyone interested can get tickets on PSU’s website or in person at the ticket office for $6 or for free for anyone with a PSU ID card. Cooper said a link will be emailed out to audience members on whichever day they purchased a ticket for.  

“The Wolves” was written by Sarah DeLappe and was a finalist for a 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net