SUNY Oswego’s theatre department will present its first live in-person play since the pandemic -- with some thematic parallels -- in “Elsewhere,” running Oct. 20 to 24 in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre. 

“Elsewhere” is a dark comedy which describes the story of a young woman, Celia (played by Katy Hartzell), who is afraid to go outside. She has cut herself off to the world and lives in isolation. Celia is trying to figure out how to rejoin society, but is also waiting for others, such as Teddy (Andrew Buyea) and her sister Amanda (Taelor Pittman), to bring her out of her loneliness. 

This leaves the questions of “Where will Celia find herself? Is she going to do it herself or are they going to help her?” 

The play’s director, theatre faculty member and Oswego alumnus Steven Mazzoccone, said this play is timely in some of its themes. 

“In some ways, out of the pandemic, many of us are trying to figure out how we join the world again,” he said. “There’s some resonance of syncing up where she’s finding herself and where we are finding ourselves in the time of coming out of the pandemic.” 

Although Celia isn’t living through a pandemic, within her own isolation, she developed rituals which help her sense of existence. 

“In the beginning of the play, we discover that she’s starting to realize these rituals and habitual patterns are hurting more than helping her,” he said. 

In his director’s notes, Mazzoccone said that people create behaviors to help get through the world. The production focuses on Celia’s behaviors and pattern of self control. 

The play notes potential triggers for toxic relationships, violence and mentions of mental health. The show also features murder, drugs and death; it is not suitable for anyone under the age of 18.  

The rest of the cast includes Philip Jones as Teddy's understudy, Sabrina Taylor as Celia's understudy and Shy Sims as Amanda's understudy, with Rachel Leotta and Natalie Griffin as Celia's shadows.

Safety protocols

With this being the first live show back at Waterman Theatre, the production crew as well as the theatre department had to focus on COVID safety. Wearing masks while acting is the biggest challenge that occurred for them. 

“We are doing rehearsals fully masked, which on a technical level, is just really difficult for the acting process,” Mazzoccone said. “As much as we try to ignore it, there is a physical barrier across half the actors’ faces.” 

This affects the sound output levels of each actor but also affects the action and interaction between scene partners. However, the last few rehearsals, actors only will be unmasked when they are performing in preparation for an unmasked production. Audience members and crew are required to wear masks. 

The cast has to get COVID tested weekly and show a negative test result, no matter what their vaccination status is. 

While working with other faculty in the drama department and a safety protocol officer of the United States Theatre Technicians for College Groups, they are able to follow what is being said or asked of them. 

“There’s the element of making sure that person is being listened to at every go,” Mazzoccone said. 

In addition, SUNY Oswego's new spectator policy requires those attending indoor events to be fully vaccinated or to have a recent negative COVID test. Read full policy for details.

Moving forward

In the spring semester, the theatre department will hold two shows. One is a student-directed production of “A Play Where Nothing Happens” and the other is a musical based on the popular movie “The Wedding Singer.” The theatre group on campus, Blackfriars, also holds events throughout the year to support theatre and the drama department itself. 

“Blackfriars hold cabaret nights, drag shows and workshops for students to get involved,” Mazzoccone said. 

Although the theatre department has engaged cast and crew members, they still worry about training students to fill a big stage, as it can be a challenge to get back to the acting technique that is required for the Waterman theatre. 

“We had student actors who were not able to be on a large stage, which took away from the training we like to offer,” he said. “That takes getting used to, especially for young actors.” 

But the theatre department’s offerings and Blackfriar activities at least start the process of providing these experiences.

“Elsewhere” will have a 7:30 p.m. curtains on Oct. 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Oct. 23.

Tickets for “Elsewhere,” available via tickets.oswego.edu, are free for students and $10 for faculty, staff and the general public.

For more information on the show, visit the production’s dramaturgy site.

-- Written by Cassandra Abel of the Class of 2022