Loyola theatre department preps for masked fall shows


Madeline Taliancich

Justin Prescott works through a movement sequence during rehearsal in Monroe Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Prescott is directing and creating “All in a Day’s Work,” a devised movement piece premiering Nov. 11 in the Marquette Theater.

With the mask mandate still in place at Loyola, the theatre department plans to once again present its 2021-2022 season in masks. 

Although this continues to present challenges for performances, Artistic Director Sal Mannino said wearing masks encourages theatre makers to get creative when working on shows.

Justin Prescott, director and creator of season opener “All in a Day’s Work,” said not being able to see a performer’s full face when acting takes getting used to. However, he said masking “kind of works in our favor” for his show because it is a movement-based piece without any lines or singing that would be obscured by a mask. 

Actors in both fall productions said masks complicate performing. 

Sophomore Jaylin Darby plays the role of Esther in “Intimate Apparel,” her second masked show in her time at Loyola. She said masks force actors to over-express with their eyes and gestures. 

She said masking during a performance “can be a bit tedious because the audience doesn’t see the full expressions made from your face.” 

Steven Pendleton, theatre arts sophomore and ensemble member of “All in a Day’s Work,” who uses he/they pronouns, said breath support and connecting with other members of the ensemble are difficult in a mask. However, Pendleton said they understand the need for continued masking.

“The struggles actors go through working in masks is minute in comparison to the risks that are present if we don’t use them,” Pendleton said. 

However, this year’s season is no longer restricted by social distancing measures. Last year’s productions were only able to seat audiences in a limited capacity and actors had to maintain six feet of distance from each other onstage. Mannino said intimacy is possible onstage once again without these restrictions. 

“It makes such a difference not to have the six feet especially from a training standpoint,” he said. 

Mannino noted that actor and audience safety is still a top priority and wants to ensure the department is “taking care of (audience members) just as much as we are our artists.” He said the department is working to remain compliant and to make theatre accessible to everyone in a safe manner. 

Despite continued masking and being forced to push both fall shows back several weeks because of Hurricane Ida, the department is optimistic about the upcoming season. 

Prescott said it’s been an honor to create a new work of theatre for the department. 

Director of “Intimate Apparel,” Sacha Grandoit, said she is moved by the fact that theatre artists love the craft enough to sit in a rehearsal space for hours while masked. 

I honestly find it so endearing that theatre and artistry is still surviving,” she said. “It’s kind of endearing to watch a rehearsal of these talented actors that are in this show, giving all that they have in a mask.” 

Performers like Pendleton and Darby are grateful to be making theatre during the pandemic. Pendleton said working on “All in a Day’s Work” has been amazing because of the way everyone is so invested. 

“It’s really exciting and engaging to be in a room full of other performers who are just trying to put 110% into whatever movement they’re working on,” Pendleton said. 

Darby seconded Pendleton’s beliefs and said that the artists creating “Intimate Apparel” are passionate about the production. 

“It’s such an amazing feeling to come together and watch the story unravel right before our eyes and understand each character’s journey,” she said. Darby called “Intimate Apparel” a work of art and hopes audiences connect with it once it opens. 

Grandoit encouraged audiences to see the show, noting how hard everyone has been working onstage and behind the scenes to make it happen. 

“We have talented actors working really, really hard in the height of a pandemic, in the height of midterms,” she said. 

Mannino thinks that, although actors are still masking, the current world of theatre is exciting. 

“It feels like we’re one step closer to normal, or the new normal, whatever it may be,” he said.

The first show of the season, “All in a Day’s Work,” runs Nov. 11-20 in the Marquette Theater followed by “Intimate Apparel” from Dec. 2-10 in the Lower Depths Experimental Theater. Tickets are on sale now.