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Student Blog: Producing Virtual Theatre: Greater Giving 2021

Artistic Director Gabi Dwyer talks philanthropy, accessibility, and more.

Student Blog: Producing Virtual Theatre: Greater Giving 2021

Each year, the Gamma Gamma chapter of Alpha Psi Omega theatre Honor Society presents Greater Giving, an entirely student run variety show. Proceeds benefit Five Horizons Health Services, a nonprofit that provides affordable medical care, including HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, throughout west Alabama. Ahead of this year's upcoming virtual show, I spoke to Artistic Director Gabi Dwyer about her experience and what she's learned about producing virtual theatre.


What have virtual productions taught you about theatre?

I have begun to appreciate more the preparation that goes into creating a cohesive piece of art. The preparation for live theatre and film is so beyond different, much more so than I imagined. If you do not have a plan and a vision to start, it will be very hard to make on the spot decisions, and it is something I am learning to do more every day through this process.

Is there anything about Greater Giving that benefits from being virtual?

While it will definitely turn out to be more work, I am excited to be using a virtual platform, and I think the future of GG could be virtual, or at least continue to have virtual aspects. With an online platform, we are able to reach a wider audience, allowing Five Horizon's message to meet more audiences nationwide, possibly even worldwide! In addition, our department does not have many opportunities for screen work for theatre majors (we go to the College of Communications and Information Science for short film experiences), so a virtual Greater Giving allows theatre/acting/musical theatre majors the opportunity to explore the technology that can help them best market themselves as professionals.

What challenges have you faced in production?

Gosh, what challenges haven't we faced. Greater Giving, in a traditional year, is a one night in person benefit concert supporting 5H Health Services. We are typically able to put the whole show together from scratch in the fall semester, starting the process in the beginning of September and finishing the first week in December. However, this year, we had to completely transfer the concert to a virtual platform. So, we have taken the whole academic year to prepare. The Greater Giving team has learned how to edit and we have provided directors with the resources to translate their acts that would originally be for the stage for the screen. Which has been a journey, especially for a woman like me who is completely technologically incompetent.

I would say the biggest challenge we have faced is truly understanding the filming and editing process. The theatre process can take 6 weeks because the show is live. During tech week, all lighting and costumes are solidified and the show can go up. however, much more preparation is needed so there is time to edit the piece together and make it the best it can be. We definitely were not prepared for how fast deadlines would sneak up on us having to learn how to utilize new software to achieve our goal of best representing Five Horizons.

Would you do it again? If so, would you change anything?

Absolutely. Without a doubt. I would do it again, and I would work to provide more resources to our directors and performers on the transition from the stage to the screen, something we are looking to add to Greater Giving in the future. But the most important reason I would do it again is because it forced us to grow and see new opportunities for theatre in avenues we hadn't pursued before. It has forced me to think out of the box and do things outside my comfort zone. I am beyond grateful for this experience and cannot wait to share the art we create with everyone!


Greater Giving will stream April 23rd. For ticket information, follow @apogammagammacast on Instagram.
Go to fivehorizons.org to donate or learn more about Five Horizons Health Services.


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