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Kenan Theatre Company's new play explores sexuality and adolescence in virtual format


Kenan Theatre Company is holding a virtual production of Gina Femia’s “The Virtuous Fall of the Girls from Our Lady of Sorrows” that will stream on Oct. 23 and 24, 2020. Graphic courtesy of Amelia Jerden.

With a focus on themes of sexuality, religion and adolescence, Kenan Theatre Company is continuing to provide a safe alternative for theatergoers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its virtual production of Gina Femia’s “The Virtuous Fall of the Girls from Our Lady of Sorrows” will stream on Oct. 23 and 24.

The play is directed by Keyanna Alexander, a 2018 graduate of North Carolina Central University, who was brought in by KTC to work with student designers and producers to bring the show to life.

“The show is about the coming of age of a group of young women as they navigate adolescence and religion in their Catholic high school in 2002,”  Alexander said.

The play was suggested by UNC senior Katia Carmichael during this season’s selection process. 

“It deals with a lot of different themes like LGBTQ struggles in the Catholic faith, sexual harassment and just this feeling overall that you get in Catholic school by being told your whole life that everything that makes you human is a sin,” Carmichael said.

The show is centered around a play written by the main character, Minnie, played by UNC student Aubree Dixon. The play is Minnie’s controversial adaptation of the Shakespeare work, “Measure for Measure,” which is performed by her and her classmates.

Sophomore Elizabeth Redding, one of the producers of the play, said the girls act as the cast members in Minnie’s show. The audience gets to follow them as they become friends and talk about their lives and different backgrounds. 

“It's a really nice coming of age show that has a lot of really funny elements, but also has a lot of really important themes that I think people can relate to,” Redding said.

Like many other UNC art departments, the dramatic arts have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the theater industry.

As the director, Alexander worked with KTC to adapt the show for the virtual stage by making sure the themes and ideas portrayed in the script would be translated onto each audience member's computer screen.

KTC is using the live streaming platform Twitch to stream its plays live to the public. 

“We do our rehearsals and performances over Skype,” Carmichael said. “The technical director takes our little boxes and maneuvers them around the screen that is live streamed to the audience, which gives them a sort of performance that the actors don't get to see.”

Carmichael said that virtual readings have their bonuses: easier access for audiences, and a chance for people from all over the globe to see the play. However, she said that actors are struggling with the isolation of acting through a computer screen.

“Theater really thrives off having a live audience and being in an environment with people,” Carmichael said. “This experiment that every theater company is trying right now is a strange experience for actors.” 

Despite these challenges, Kenan Theatre Company is working hard to still provide the UNC and wider community with theatrical performances to get people through tough times.

“What I hope people get out of this is a sense of self-validation,”  Alexander said. “That you do not have to be content and be happy by comparing yourself to others, it should come from within.” 


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