The cast has their mics and cameras turned on as they prepare for the tried and true warmup, zip-zap-zop. Designers explore the digital realm of Zoom with ingenuity and imagination while snap filters defy the realm of logic. Breakout rooms are prepared where actors will team up to take on roles as playwrights, poets, and lyricists in preparation for an original work 20/20 Visions: The Violet Response Project, directed by Hillary Boyd.
The original slated opening production of TTU's 20/21 season was the musical Violet with music by Jeanine Tesori and libretto by Brian Crawley. This show, as well as the rest of the season, was selected by the season selection committee toward the end of 2019. Needless to say, the world has undergone some changes since then. This was a time before the pandemic; before the country had fully invested in another election year. A time where disaster still came with certain levels of surprise and every decision or news wasn't accompanied with additional layers of fear and complexity.
"As we reflected on the summer we experienced and began jumping into the script of Violet, it started to feel like this was no longer the right show for the moment." said director Hillary Boyd (MFA Performance & Pedagogy, December 2020). Although Violet does navigate many modern, applicable themes such as inner beauty, gender, and acceptance, "There was more on our hearts and minds than it could convey."
The heightened emotional climate of this past year has given theatre students and faculty at Texas Tech the challenge of interrogating pieces differently, to approach the season selection process with a different perspective. "Theatre is supposed to reflect the time it's in," says Boyd. "It's important that we have a resilient attitude, and not to force a show that doesn't fit."
For this reason, the cast and crew have decided to replace the originally scheduled production of Violet with a fully original devised piece titled 20/20 Visions: The Violet Response Project to engage with the thematic content of Violet on a more personal and applicable level. The process began with the cast responding to specific prompts given by the director that dove further into the internal and external conflicts of 2020 and the friction involved in each students' daily lives. Students began to explore additional topics such as religion, representation, and mental health concerns in an online environment, among others. They did so by pushing their own limits. Actors became writers and lyricists, all while navigating the new medium of online performance.
When asked if there were any moments throughout the process that helped to solidify the change of show, Boyd responded: "Hearing all of the cast share their prompt responses and how much they resonated was a big 'aha moment.' This felt like where we needed to be—seeing people opening up and sharing what's on their hearts: fears, struggles, and how we were all united through these stories; everyone nodding in agreement and supporting one another."
2020 has given people the permission to lean into and share their own stories by fighting for empathy and support at every turn. 20/20 Visions invites audiences to reflect on the past year's events while offering a hopeful perspective looking forward. Although the future may seem hazy and more uncertain than ever before, the number of stories being brought to light are opportunities for change and growth. We can all find encouragement in the fact that zip-zap-zop is not silenced when faced with a challenge, much like the talented cast and crew of 20/20 Visions.
20/20 Visions: The Violet Response Project opens October 8th as a Virtual Performance hosted by Zoom Webinar.