We didn’t know we were making history until we were in the middle of it all. On March 9, Brand New Theatre (BNT) moved into Massman Theatre for tech week. The design team pushed forward as threats of COVID-19 spread continued. The next day, the university announced in a memo that all university sponsored events between March 11 and March 29 were cancelled. We knew our show fell in the middle of that timeline.

Finch (Ruby Marker) walking into the bunker where Cuckoobird (Zach Ring) is having an episode where he recites poems and codes from his memory. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Finch (Ruby Marker) walking into the bunker where Cuckoobird (Zach Ring) is having an episode where he recites poems and codes from his memory. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
During a card game, trust is questioned among the group. L-R Veery (Brett Morachnik), Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko), Thrush (James Korrell), Grace (Nia Baker). (Photo by Steven Vargas)
During a card game, trust is questioned among the group. L-R Veery (Brett Morachnik), Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko), Thrush (James Korrell), Grace (Nia Baker). (Photo by Steven Vargas)

I walked into the Massman Theatre last Tuesday to see everyone rushing to get the set ready. As the graphic design director of BNT, I went right into making graphics for the proposed date of our show if we managed to get permission to do it that Thursday.

Veery (Brett Morachnik) and Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko) distance themselves from an argument happening in the bunker. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Veery (Brett Morachnik) and Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko) distance themselves from an argument happening in the bunker. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

By the end of the night, the set was ready and the marketing team had the posts ready for the shows. The only thing we needed was approval from SDA to put on the show.

Finch (Ruby Marker) opens up to Redpoll (Ryan Benson) so they can work together. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Finch (Ruby Marker) opens up to Redpoll (Ryan Benson) so they can work together. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Redpoll (Ryan Benson) shares the memories he holds of his daughter. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Redpoll (Ryan Benson) shares the memories he holds of his daughter. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Redpoll (Ryan Benson) and Finch (Ruby Marker) make amends. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Redpoll (Ryan Benson) and Finch (Ruby Marker) make amends. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

We were ultimately informed that we were not allowed to put on the show despite all of our progress. Instead, we could put on a final dress on March 11 for those who were directly involved with the show. We took it.

Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko) grieves over Cuckoobird’s (Zach Ring) death. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko) grieves over Cuckoobird’s (Zach Ring) death. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

I came into the theatre Wednesday to take photos, but midway through the process, I realized this moment was significant, just as much as the virus that’s spreading across the globe. We are the last Independent Student Production (ISP) to go up before the university closed for purposes of social-distancing.

Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko) takes one last look at her book of birds. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Chickadee (Abbey Martichenko) takes one last look at her book of birds. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Full cast at curtain call. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Full cast at curtain call. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

The team brought everything together in three days, and it went down as quick as it went up. At the height of it all, I looked down below and saw something monumental.

The stage after the show. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
The stage after the show. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Lighting designer Payton Truszowski collecting cables. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Lighting designer Payton Truszowski collecting cables. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

I saw this company push through thick and thin to make our production of “The Birdcage Experiment” by USC student Aria Schuler breathe and live, even if for a single time to just a small number of people. To me, this was a testament to the power of art and the legacy it holds in presenting history.

Brand New Theatre executive board members taking down lighting instruments. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Brand New Theatre executive board members taking down lighting instruments. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

“The Birdcage Experiment” follows a group of people who find shelter in a bunker after a mysterious bug takes out a large part of the population in Haventown. To escape the virus and remain healthy, they isolate themselves in the bunker under the leadership of Finch.

Technical director Enrique Garcia taking apart the set. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Technical director Enrique Garcia taking apart the set. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

When a mysterious woman shows up at their doorstep with a box of food, the group quarrels and questions what will help them survive: alliance or solitude.

Director Catherine Clements makes room for autographs in the dressing room where it is tradition that people involved in the production sign their name at the end of the run. (Photo by Steven Vargas)
Director Catherine Clements makes room for autographs in the dressing room where it is tradition that people involved in the production sign their name at the end of the run. (Photo by Steven Vargas)

We did not plan for the show to mirror what is happening currently across the globe and neither did the playwright, it happened by coincidence. If anything, it gave us a stronger purpose to put on the show.