Brand New Theatre persists amid COVID-19 pandemic

A personal account from the BNT team as they become the last independent student production to put on a show before the rest of productions cancel.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.