Two locations on campus transformed into outdoor stages when HWS Theatre presented the Vaudeville Variety Traveling Show last weekend. The production was the first in the 2020-2021 season, designed with social distancing protocols in mind.
The 30-minute, family-friendly show featured classic comic skits from the heyday of the vaudeville-era performed by Dom Marshall ’22, Julia McCormack ’23, Eliyah Roberts ’24, Christina Roc ’24 and July Winters ’24. Adrian Bayless-Marr ’21 and Kels Veeder ’21 served as stage managers.
“I wanted a show where I could rehearse people either solo or in small groups and I needed a show where, if one person could no longer perform, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that the entire show had to be cancelled,” says Chair of the Theatre Department and Associate Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, who served as the show’s director. “This led me down the road of creating a variety show. My great-grandfather was a vaudeville performer, so that’s where I started.”
Hatch’s vision came together when he contacted Technical Director Ed Hallborg with the idea of using a trailer like those used to transport lawn equipment as a mobile stage, Sound Designer Kelly Walker brought his experience with outdoor performances and Costume Designer Katharine Tarkulich infused the costumes with the spirit of vaudeville and variety shows.
The traveling show was also inspired by the Federal Theatre Project, established during the Great Depression and sponsored by the Works Project Administration, when the Caravan Theatre program brought mobile stages to neighborhoods throughout New York City.
Audiences enjoyed a fast-moving show that meshed famous pieces from some of the most well-known vaudeville performers alongside jokes that referenced 2020. “On the one hand, we showcased pieces made famous by Abbott and Costello, Bert Williams and Judy Garland,” says Hatch. “And then we paired that with up-to-the-moment references about wearing masks, baseball playoffs and more.”
The Vaudeville Variety Traveling Show was staged in front of Coxe Hall and outside of Houghton House. Seating circles were provided to allow for proper social distancing and audience members were required to be masked.