Theatre persists amid COVID-19 pandemic
A year after the then-novel COVID-19 Pandemic canceled all Millikin University events, including in-person classes, the Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre was determined to continue their mission to bring meaningful, thought-provoking messages to the Decatur community, even if it meant recording their performance to be viewed virtually.
In order to make their performance of “Six Years Old” possible within the pandemic constraints, the Pipe Dreams cast and crew underwent frequent testing, wore masks during rehearsals and filming and learned an entirely new skill set of performing for a camera instead of a live audience.
“We are producing theatre in a different way, but still producing a year later,” said director Sophie Kibiger, a senior theatre major with a creative writing minor. “We’ve learned so much about creation in difficult times. We have socially distanced rehearsals, mask policies and specific COVID policies within our contract that everyone is bound to follow.”
Despite these challenges, Pipe Dreams achieved their goal to produce a play relevant to today’s societal issues in an effort to spread a message of love and acceptance. “Six Years Old,” written by Daphne Silbiger and published in 2019, addresses gender identity issues among children in the form of Adalaide, a six-year-old who doesn’t know how to express her feelings about not wanting to be treated like a girl.
“It is a comedy, even though it seems very heavy. Obviously there are a lot of really heavy themes, but it’s told in a comedic way because at the end of the day it’s about a couple of kids,” said Kibiger.
Nat Long, a senior theatre and biology major and the actor portraying Adalaide, says that their character is trying to figure out what makes her different from everyone else. “She knows what she wants, it’s just a matter of how she’s going to get it,” said Long. “She’s small and she’s six, so she doesn’t have a lot of power.”
While Adalaide represents the little-addressed issue of gender identity in children, the character of her babysitter, Kim, shows the impact a positive, supportive adult can have in cases of gender identity. Kim is played by Nicolet Endean, a junior theater major. “Kim takes on the role of being a mentor. She’s put in the position of guiding a child through a confusing time in her life,” said Endean.
Kibiger said they were drawn to directing the play because of the importance of helping kids find themselves.
“The message of acceptance and education really spoke to me and I think it’s an important message for adults and other people who are around children to hear.”
Unique to this Pipe Dreams production is the ability to share the performance to a broader audience by making it available to view virtually. With their location on campus limited to a 12 person capacity per COVID-19 restrictions, they decided to take on the challenge of recording their performance, which presented a number of obstacles, both expected and unexpected.
“It’s different to direct for a stage than it is to direct for a camera,” Kibiger said, discussing how their directorial job changed to suit the presentation format. “While it’s been difficult, it has also been an awesome learning opportunity that I would have never gotten to experience in college otherwise.”
The Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre production of Six Years Old premiers March 19 at 7 p.m. CST and is available through March 22. Tickets are $5 per device for students and $7 for the public and enables users to watch for 48 hours.