Participants of the Education and Engagement department’s new program Alone Together have met the challenges of creating new work for the digital stage head on and with enthusiasm. 

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Austin Burgett, a rising senior at Lane Tech, was really looking forward to his third year of participating in the Goodman’s Musical Theater Intensive program. But when COVID-19 hit, he quickly realized that this summer was going to look a lot different than his previous two. “I love MTI and all year long I look forward to it,” he says, “so I was a little nervous about what I was going to do this year instead.”

As the Goodman worked to develop and adapt programs for the theater-loving young artists across the city now stuck at home, the idea for Alone Together: A Solo Voices Project was sparked. What if being on our own was the thing that united us and brought us closer instead of isolating us?

With that, 18 students, including Austin, started meeting Monday through Friday for four hours each day as they worked to develop a unique, site-specific solo performance piece that they would present to the public via Zoom at the end of four weeks.

Austin is proud of what he and his peers have put together already. With a team of teaching artists to support them creatively in everything from directing to sound design, participants have been transforming their spaces into their stages. 

“I’m doing this from my basement and I thought my options were super limited” Austin says. But he has already gotten pretty crafty and learned how to use tinfoil and a lamp to create a spotlight for his performance about a teen trying to talk to God for the first time. “This is a whole new ballgame for me. We have complete control over what we show to the world.”

With that control, comes new technical hurdles of developing a performance to be broadcast specifically on Zoom.

“I’ve been dipping my toe into film and television,” says Wardell Julius Clark, one member of the talented roster of teaching artists lending their skills to the program, “so I’m helping [participants] think about things frame-by-frame and what they want the audience to focus on.”

One participant, he says, is telling a story about a girl getting a DUI. “She’s performing it all in a car. She even wants to put a smoke machine in the backseat!”

While these performances might not be the ensemble-based work Austin was expecting to create this summer, Alone Together has opened his eyes to opportunities in the industry and new ways to think about performing. It’s safe to say that the future of theater is still bright, even if it’s lit with tinfoil wrapped around a lampshade.

Tune in Friday, July 24 on YouTube to see what Austin and his peers have created as part of Alone Together: A Solo Voices Project.

Are you between the ages of 14 and 18 and interested in applying for session two of the program, which starts July 27? You can do so by clicking the button below.

Virtual Event, July 24 at 5:30pm CDT