The Multiversity - An AUTPA Zoom Production
By Mikayla Madden-Snoad (she/her) and Viola Ember (she/her)
The day was August 17, 2021. After 2020’s Covid restrictions, we’d all been enjoying our freedom - attending classes in person, hanging out on campus, socialising... and things were about to get EVEN better - AUT Performing Arts, would soon stage AUT’s first production in years! The script for what would be a hilarious play was underway and we couldn’t wait to bring the arts back to AUT.
That’s when it happened. “Turn on the TV”. Across the country, Kiwis were turning on the news to see a sombre Jacinda Ardern approach the stand. Delta had arrived in the community.
We weren’t too worried though - a quick director’s meeting decided to hold the auditions and rehearsals online over lockdown - it would be what, a week long? Maybe two, at most three? Hah! We couldn’t have been more wrong. Who would’ve predicted four long months of isolation awaited us?
Indeed, the AUT Performing Arts club had reawakened our theatre spirit (dormant since high school drama) and we couldn’t wait to do a fully staged production. When lockdown hit, we decided, in true ‘show must go on’ spirit, to step on to the digital stage, putting together a show like no other: "The Multiversity: An AUTPA Zoom Production".
Now let's see if the odds were in our favour:
• A one act play written over one (intense) week.
• Zero experience writing, directing, or producing a stage show.
• Zero experience with Zoom shows.
• Zero budget.
• A cast we had never met.
• Uni exams around the corner and an uphill struggle adapting to online uni.
• Us, extroverts to its fullest definition, stuck in introvert-filled homes.
Not looking great, right? Despite all this, the Zoom production is what saved our lockdown.
Is it strange to say rehearsals were the highlight of our week? They were a welcome distraction from the mundanity and existential despair of lockdown, a time to laugh and be silly and be together with the online strangers that are now among our closest friends. It helped that rehearsals forced everyone to spend time with us - we could absorb all that social energy extroverts crave! Co- directing also saved us, as the workload and responsibility of guiding 30 people through uncharted territory would have been impossible alone. For any future Zoom-show-ers: familiarise yourself with the green screen effect, immersive view, and painstakingly moving Zoom boxes around a screen. In comparison to the tech side, the performance part was a breeze - our cast adapted and overcame, truly connected, and brought their characters to life, despite their real life counterparts being their bedroom walls!
Our two rehearsals a week soon became three, with our rapidly approaching ‘shoot days’ (screen-recording on Zoom) looming ever closer. The excitement - and the pressure - was high. We’d just about mastered the tech and the crew had pulled together our costumes and props - there’s nothing quite like being in costume to get into character! This was the final touch we needed for our show to come to life. After recording, our amazing editors pulled together a one hour film with special effects, music, and more, in barely two weeks. While the rest of the cast was enjoying a well-deserved break (and probably feeling lost without us), we were working harder than ever on directing the edits, something again completely new to both of us theatre kids.
Finally, it was time to view the results of our hard work in person ! We couldn’t believe this was our first time physically meeting - it truly felt like we had known each other forever. Our red-carpet premiere of the show was complete with cake and a list of thank-yous to the 30- odd people involved, and we watched the full production with overflowing excitement. The Multiversity 2021 had truly gone beyond its original plot and had become a story of connection, learning, lockdown shenanigans, and pure friendship.
As Yuvraj puts it, “the online show brought people together and formed a community... it gave us something to look forward to every week and helped us feel excited about being a part of something bigger than ourselves.” We’ll never forget this incredible experience, and are thrilled to be bringing this 7-month labour of love to a live stage in May. The takeaway from all this? If another lockdown comes up, we’re not worried. Community and connection can come from the most unexpected of places, if you’re willing to put yourself out there.
The Multiversity is coming to the stage in May 2022.