For their final project, UW’s theatre and performance program’s senior capstone students produced scenes from the play “carried away on the crest of a wave” written by Canadian playwright David Yee.
The play, which was live-streamed for three performances (11:30 a.m. March 25th and 7:30 p.m. March 26th and 27th), is centred around themes of global tragedy, trauma and togetherness. Thematically, the play is related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the performance aimed to capture the impact of a global event on humanity.
Due to the pandemic, the creative team had to adhere to numerous safety measures. Throughout the production process, the team did an exceptional job of navigating the necessary restrictions, and the final performance demonstrated their hard work and creative ingenuity.
The planning process began in the summer of 2020, several months into the pandemic. Over Zoom, the capstone students along with Director Andy Houston and Production Manager Janelle Rainville selected their final play. The group wanted to address the trauma and grief of a global event like the pandemic, without telling a story about COVID-19 specifically. They decided on David Yee’s “carried away on the crest of a wave.”
Yee’s work explores the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami—one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The play consists of a series of vignettes that tell nine stories about people around the world who were affected by the devastating event.
Through these stories, “Yee captures vividly the process of moving from trauma through the various stages of recovery over days, weeks, months, and years,” Houston wrote in his Notes on the Production.
At its core, “carried away on the crest of a wave” is a story about connection. “Yee’s approach to the 2004 tsunami is to script a series of stories that represent glimpses of the human spirit, facing enormous adversity yet driven by a will to come together for reflection and sharing—a desire that our own pandemic-impacted world knows all too well,” Houston wrote.
At the start of the planning process, the theatre and performance team established a set of goals they wanted to achieve with their project. On the list was a desire to have an in-person person experience and increase connection throughout the play.
The team relied on stringent and regularly updated safety protocols to ensure that they could include the in-person aspect. Actors wore face coverings, the production space was sanitized routinely, and the choreography was adjusted so that the cast members remained six feet apart at all times. Every moment of the show was reviewed by a safety team.
The team also relied on digital communication tools, from video conferencing to social media, to restore the connection that was absent due to the pandemic.
Although the final production had no in-person audience, the team used real-time live-streaming to help recreate the sense of togetherness that is born from live theatre.
The prevalence of digital media offered another benefit—the audience for this year’s production spread much wider than in any previous year. Theatre and performance students from around the world were able to share their work with their families and friends in real time.
Yee’s play centres on the idea of global connectedness. The pandemic has demonstrated that our world is deeply interconnected. Through their production of “carried away on the crest of a wave,” the capstone team has reinforced these ideas, both on and off-stage.
Just as the pandemic connected us through tragedy, UW’s theatre and performance capstone team connected audience members through art. Through that connection, they provided us with a chance to reflect on the pandemic and begin to heal.