SBCC Theatre Arts safely overcomes social distancing obstacles

SBCC Theatre Arts safely overcomes social distancing obstacles to keep theatre alive and thriving
October 29, 2020

SBCC Theatre Arts safely overcomes social distancing obstacles to keep theatre alive and thriving

Since its earliest days in ancient Greece, live theatre has always been a communal event, where performers and audiences came together for shared experiences in drama, comedy and tragedy. So what happens when a pandemic strikes and people can no longer gather in groups? In the true spirit of the theatre, SBCC’s Garvin Theatre Technical Director Ben Crop says the answer lies in “Not giving up! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Between now and Nov. 7, the public can see exactly how that amazing will created an innovative way for performers and audiences to share an evening of inspiring musical theatre – while safely social distancing – with the on-demand streaming production of “Looking Back, Looking Forward.”

Presented by The Theatre Group at SBCC, “Looking Back, Looking Forward” is an original musical revue, directed by Katie Laris with musical direction by David Potter. In a loving tribute to musical theatre, a talented cast performs songs from some of Broadway’s most beloved shows, including “Cabaret,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “West Side Story,” “Be More Chill,” “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “Rent” and many more. Tickets for this streaming event can be purchased at:

Rehearsals for the show were held outside, 30 hours a week for five weeks. When the time came to move inside the Garvin Theatre in order to produce the show for streaming, cameras were borrowed from SBCC’s Film Production department. During filming, plexiglas shields were used and there were never more than four actors on stage at a time. All of the numbers were produced with full lighting and scenery by Director of Design and Technology Patricia Frank (with the exception of the finale which was filmed with each individual on stage against a black background).

“We leveraged technology in a way we never have before,” said Ben Crop, who served as Director of Photography for the production. The effect is such that one would hardly guess the world is in the midst of a pandemic. The use of age-old film techniques to make it appear as if the entire cast of 15 performers assembled on stage together for the finale – “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” – resulted in a tour de force.

While there remain many uncertainties surrounding how COVID-19 will continue to impact life at SBCC, the Theatre Arts department is undaunted, making multiple plans for producing future shows outdoors, indoors and over Zoom. There is also every possibility that some in-person classes – following all safety protocols – will be offered for the Spring 2021 semester. For more information about the Theatre Arts department, its productions, course offerings, updates on Spring and more, go to:

Acknowledging the challenges to the educational aspects of theatre arts, department co-chair Katie Laris is philosophical, “We always tell our students how important it is to be flexible, adaptable and tenacious. This period has really tested our ability to live out those traits.” She adds, “Humans need creativity and connection in their lives. We see how much our students were craving the ability to work together and re-engage their artistic selves. It seems like this is more important than ever.”

Special thanks to Clarice Hillebrand, James Watson, Chien-ei Yu and SBCC Film Production, Paul DeJong, Curtis Bieber, the SBCC Foundation – and SBCC administrators Drs. Elizabeth Imhof, Pamela Ralston and Utpal Goswami – without whose help “Looking Back, Looking Forward” could not have been produced.