Masking while acting

Even though indoor sports don’t require masks, drama students have to wear masks on stage


Eric Barnes

Junior Kyleigh Barnett, sophomore Kyra Rhoades, and junior Bryan O’Keefe act with masks on during the production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged.

Imagine you were watching your favorite movie, whether it be the Avengers or a cheesy rom-com, and every actor had a mask covering their face. 

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare was a successful play performed at South High on Oct. 28-29.  The play consisted of three actors on stage with a whole lot of movement and exaggerated expressions. All actors had to have masks on while performing on stage.

The past two years, facemask debates between different extracurriculars at school has been an issue. For indoor sports, masks while playing are not required. But theatre performers have to wear masks even though they are also breaking a sweat. 

Junior Bryan O’Keefe had to say this about performing with a mask on for The Complete Works. 

“I understand stuff like swimming and even marching band, but if I can sprint across the stage and change costumes in thirty seconds with a mask on, then volleyball and wrestling kids can too,” he said. 

For actors it can be so complicated to learn how to act authentically with a mask on, especially in front of a crowd of people. Freshman Lila Wyman had to cope with this as a performer in the play.

“…because of the masks we had to make more expressions with our eyes and eyebrows because it was the only way to convey emotion with our face. The specific masks we had to wear covered even more of our faces than a normal mask as well so that added to the problem. Performing Shakespeare as well made it so pronunciation and alteration was important, and the masks affected that at times,” she said.

“A lot of work goes into making a play happen. Hours and hours of rehearsal and moving around to perfect your performance can be just as hard to do with a mask on as it is to practice volleyball or basketball with a mask on,” O’Keefe said.

Freshman Grace Fu from the varsity volleyball team is not involved with the drama department, but she still feels this is unfair for performers. 

“I do not think it’s fair that volleyball players do not have to wear a mask and theater performers have to. Because there are only three people on a stage, it would be a reasonable rule if they didn’t have to wear masks. This is also because it can be easier to hear what they’re saying and can make the play more enjoyable,” Fu said.

Drama teacher Jennifer Forrest-James said she has no control over the mask mandate–the district made the rule. She hopes for the second production of the year, Spongebob The Musical, to be mask-free.   

Wyman is part of the Tech Crew for the musical in February. She said she hopes masks will not be required for that performance.

“Knowing how difficult it was to act in masks, singing and dancing in them could truly be a problem. I hope performers will not have too, and that covid as a whole has been getting better so they can safely put on a performance without masks,” she said. 

O’Keefe has been a part of the theater department since he got to South and he thinks there is a “double-standard” where the athletic department can get away with more things because students tend to care more about athletics than school plays. 

“I’ve always thought it was unfair between both departments. I think part of the reason is just more kids are interested in seeing a football game rather than a school play. The district sees this, and funds are distributed accordingly. The theater does some really amazing stuff and even at a state level. Just a couple of years ago they won the best one act in the whole state! I think because more people are in sports than fine arts, that’s just where the focus lies,” he said.