It’s something the RJR community all missed – the auditorium audience at the edge of their seats after a dramatic scene, the roaring applause after a jaw-dropping song. Last year, concerts and performances looked a lot different with no audience in attendance. The beautiful R.J. Reynolds auditorium was empty for events including the annual A Cappella Jam and the theater performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. Now that students are back in person, concerts and performances may be getting back to normal.
“It will really look exactly the same as it should,” A Cappella director Joshua Settlemyre said. “We will be requiring audience members to wear masks. That’s basically the only COVID related requirement in the auditorium right now, so everything else will be exactly the same.”
Settlemyre also said that singers will be in masks while performing. This includes outside performances, such as singing at football games. While it is not required, he says that it is an extra precaution to keep everybody as safe as possible.
Like everyone else, A Cappella singers and Settlemyre are eager to return to normalcy. After a year with an audience behind a computer screen, it’s easy to forget how things used to be before COVID.
“I played them a video of a concert in class, and there was applause at the end,” Settlemyre said. “When we got to the applause, they were like ‘I’d forgotten it’. I said ‘Guys, you know the auditorium is going to be full for the fall concert, it’s going to be a different atmosphere’. They were like ‘Oh my god, we can’t wait to fill it again’.”
Settlemyre says that an audience in the stands for the concerts is the last missing piece of the puzzle.
“When the auditorium is literally seats away from being sold out, almost sold out, when the group gets stunned, or the soloist gets to a really intense part of the solo, and the crowd goes wild – as a performer, that gives you the adrenaline,” Settlemyre said.b “Yeah, we did some great shows last year, but we lacked that feeling of an adrenaline rush from the audience giving us love.”
A Cappella is not the only group that is ready for a crowd at their performances. Junior theater student, Paul Gunter, says that he is ready for the feeling of the audience again for upcoming theater performances.
“I think after doing so many videos and virtual performances, you just don’t get the same energy from the audience,” Gunter said. “You don’t get to hear them clap, and all that. That really keeps you going as a performer, and not having that has been difficult.”
Gunter, who has been doing theater since elementary school, says that theater is hoping for a live audience, but masking is still going to be in effect. There may also be some empty seats to account for social distancing.
The theater program is getting ready for their upcoming production, Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show will be put on from October 22nd through 24th.
“The cast is really good, of really strong people, and I think it’s going pretty well,” says Gunter.
The Reynolds community is ready to get back into the crowd and show some support for their performing arts.