Pandemic inspires 'My Crazy College Life' at M State
When the pandemic forced classes to move off campus and curtailed most in-person gatherings, the M State Theatre Arts and Music programs used technology to teach and rehearse – and give students a whole new set of skills.
“The global pandemic has been hard on live theatre everywhere,” said M State theatre instructor Stefanie Gerhardson. “Our M State Theatre Department had two choices for 2020-21: Go virtual or stay home. So we put on our life jackets and took the watery plunge into the murky world of digital rehearsing, performing, recording and editing.”
Throughout the academic year, Gerhardson and 16 students have been working on the humorous and sometimes heartbreaking play, My Crazy College Life. Through a series of monologues, the play explores what’s in the minds and hearts of today’s college students and captures the extreme difficulty of self-discovery. Topics range from humorous problems with roommates, financial aid and professors, to more mature subjects such as race, sexuality and loneliness.
“Through this entire process, the students have been fantastic,” Gerhardson said. “I wasn’t sure how students would feel about being involved in a virtual production. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I didn’t even know where to start. But the students were enthusiastic and willing to give it a try, so we jumped in together. And even though mistakes were made, and everything took much longer than we thought it would, the M State students remained flexible and encouraging.”
“I’m just glad I can be part of this performance,” said student Mallory Shoemaker. “I picked M State because of the arts program, and I was really afraid I’d have to give up theatre. It’s really a blessing.”
She had been planning to live on campus for the 2020-21 academic year but opted to stay at home in Milaca after classes went online in the fall. “I’m crossing my fingers for next year,” she said.
The cast of My Crazy College Life includes Shoemaker; Raymond Johnson, Awa Camara, Cameron Fritz and Reno Hanson (Fargo Moorhead); Nikki Jorud (Battle Lake); Jeremiah Kratzke and Sienna Baratono (Detroit Lakes); Devin Cordahl (Park Rapids); and Thaddeus Asheim, Izabel Sherman, Austin Hess-Jensen, Andrew Rasmusson, Jonathan Vall, Mikey Vall and Angel Grenvik (all of Fergus Falls).
“Because of the pandemic, many M State students felt alone,” Gerhardson said. “They felt isolated, but they came together. They came together social distancing and wearing masks. They came together rehearsing over ZOOM. They came together recording videos in their apartments and dorm rooms. They came together to experience theatre, in whatever way they could, and it worked as well as any live show I have done. It is a testament to the value and strength of the arts, education and working together — even when we are alone.”