Redeye Theatre Project celebrates Sweet 16 with virtual ‘Zoom-stival’


Zoom screenshot

The Redeye Theatre Project kicked off its 16th season last Saturday over Zoom with one of its signature 24-hour theater events.

By Siddhi Shockey, Senior Staff Writer

Hannah Dewhurst, Redeye Theatre Project’s casting director, called out as the video call emerged onto the TV screen.

“And I said, ‘Of course the moon is gay!’ How could it not be?” she cried.

Her exclamation was part of Redeye’s Sweet 16 last Saturday, which it celebrated with one of its signature 24-hour theater events. During these events, members write, direct, rehearse and perform a show, all in just one day. To kick off its 16th season, all of the shows had to fit the festival theme of “Lean, Mean, Post-Puberty Machine.”

Each Redeye festival is a time for members to write crazy plays they otherwise wouldn’t be able to — an aspect of the festival that Rosie Schade, Redeye’s playwright in residence, said is important to her.

“It gives people a chance to try out things and write things they normally wouldn’t,” Schade, a junior psychology major, said. “It’s really nice to have zero inhibition, zero taboos and just write really crazy stuff.”

Schade said one of her favorite Redeye shows was called “Casserole Play,” which tells the story of a boy whose uptight, Christian mother has no interest in meeting his astrology-loving, emo girlfriend.

“In the end it turns out the goth girlfriend is actually his dad disguised as his girlfriend but his mom thought she killed the dad,” Schade said.

Normally, the festival begins on a Friday afternoon and ends with a show in the Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre in the Cathedral of Learning’s basement. But due to COVID-19 regulations, the club decided to do all its shows this semester over Zoom and livestream them on its YouTube channel.

Dewhurst, a junior psychology major, said she thinks the new Zoom format complements Redeye’s spontaneous, often unpredictable theatrical style.

“Zoom is a little unreliable, which adds to the fun element of Redeye, because you don’t exactly know what’s going to happen,” Dewhurst said. “You don’t know if things are going to go wrong.”

With Redeye’s fast turnaround time, Dewhurst and Schade said members are used to working with what they have. Tripping on stage turns into a dance, and messing up a line can turn into a quirky character trait. Even when it comes to props and costumes, members will use anything from their own clothes to garbage bags.

“One of our props this year is a Juul, but I don’t expect that everyone has a Juul lying around since we’re not 16 anymore,” Schade said. “So in that case a flash drive works.”

This “Juul” made its appearance in a skit titled “The Other F Slur (F-boys),” poking fun at the lip-biting f-boy stereotype. Another skit, “The Haunting of Clubhouse,” featured a cardboard cutout of a demonic Mickey Mouse that steals people’s souls.

“The Quack Diaries” — the story of the murder of the Webkinz icon Dr. Quack — utilized Zoom backgrounds to make it seem as though the characters were on the Webkinz website. “The Other F Slur (F-boys)” also used a Zoom background of a boy’s messy room, complete with a “Saturdays are for the Boys” flag.

Saturday’s performance was the first show of this season, but Redeye’s second Zoom festival. The club still had one more performance in its last season when the University sent students home for the rest of spring semester, so the club quickly threw together its first online festival.

The first festival’s theme was “Zoomsday” and featured a number of skits poking fun at the platform. One skit told the story of astronauts on a phone call with NASA, which complemented the format of a video call. Another show, a spoof of the British show “Love Island,” used Zoom backgrounds to set the scene.

Delaney Heurich, Redeye’s marketing director, said there were some hiccups with the first show — actors Zooming into rehearsals from work, audio errors and Wi-Fi connection issues — she thinks the creative and spontaneous essence of Redeye will continue to show, even on screen.

“I really enjoyed being able to be in a low-stakes artistic environment with other people who had the same artistic, collaborative mindset,” Heurich, a sophomore theater arts and anthropology major, said. “It’s the best kind of chaos, so we’re trying to maintain that same kind of spirit.”

Redeye has decided that, regardless of the University’s operating posture, it will continue holding 24-hour Zoom festivals throughout the semester. Dewhurst said she feels that, although this isn’t ideal, the group will make the most of the new normal.

“From our perspective, Zoom doesn’t compare with in-person theater,” Dewhurst said. “We’re not trying to replace it, but this is the best we can do right now. This is what the times call for, but we don’t want to give up on Redeye all together, so we just need to adapt.”