Thespians At A Distance

Hamline’s Theatre Department Chair, Dr. Jeff Turner, talks about the many steps the Theatre Department has taken in order to make this year work.

Robin Doyscher, Reporter

Hamline’s Theatre Department has adapted just as much as the other departments at Hamline when it comes to distanced learning and online classes. Dr. Jeff Turner mentions that the department spent a lot of time over the summer working to accommodate performance-based classes.


“One of the things that we determined was in necessity was to find spaces that were large enough for our performance classes to take place. They’re not all face to face, they’re all hybrid,” Turner said. “So they’re meeting once or twice a week together and meeting in the end, simply theater, as opposed to the traditional classroom, which is what’s known as Studio 67 and Drew residence hall.” 


The challenge, as stated by Turner, was dealing with the limitations of a small classroom, which meant that the department had to get creative with the way it utilized space. 


“We have a space that we use over in Walker Field House, in the basement. We have really strong protocols around where you enter and where you exit making sure that instantly theater the floor has marked out trip to accommodate social distancing,” Turner said. “We’re working to kind of build even some plexiglass screens, so we can choreograph dances.”


Among the department’s faculty includes Professor Bill Wallace, the chief designer and production manager of the theatre season; Kaori Kenmotsu, the artistic director of the Hamline Dance Ensemble; and scene shop supervisor, Ryan Vulner. Turner has mentioned that his colleagues’ coordinated effort was what made their plans possible. Especially in the case of Ryan Vulner, who is a Hamline alumnus, who has been instrumental in facilitating both student and faculty projects.


“We’ve got folks from digital media arts and we’ve got folks that work in our digital media theater shop. We’ve got students that are working in costumes and in design scene shots. We’ve got a bunch of students that want to act and a bunch of students that want to write,” Turner said. 


Navigating online has given the department new opportunities to get creative.

“And the plan is to kind of create this impressionistic, maybe a little bit experimental 20 minute video that we will be able to share, hopefully the first weekend of November, that’s what we’re aiming for, but we’re not gonna beat ourselves up if we don’t succeed, because this is kind of new territory for everyone,” Turner said.


With the turbulent political, social and economic times surrounding our country, Turner believes that the circumstances are sparking student and faculty creativity. Although, Turner mentions that the department’s plans aren’t fully set in stone.


“I’ll probably know more when we’re on the other side of it, so I’ll be able to shape it. I think if everything ends up happening the way people want it to happen, then I’ll be really excited and happy,” Turner said. “We’re beginning to create something that really comes from the heart. Whether it’s super successful or maybe it’s kind of a wonderful failure, and I embrace wonderful failures. We learn a lot from that.”