‘Illusionary Tales’ Premieres as First Theatre Production of Fall 2020 Season

The cast and crew will present three nights of livestreamed performances

Three casts. Three directors. One unforgettable experience. The BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts presents “Illusionary Tales,” three short plays based on legendary stories from around the world.

With theatre productions heavily impacted by COVID safeguards this semester, the department has found unique solutions that allow performances to continue in a virtual format. “In order to multiply opportunities in this new creative process, we chose to commission three new plays, each written to meet the needs of our unique technical requirements,” said associate chair and Artistic Director Adam Houghton. 

“Illusionary Tales” features the work of three BYU alumni. “Balete Drive,” by Melissa Leilani Larson, is based on the Hispanic legend of La Llorona. “For Such a Time as This,” by James Goldberg, builds on the Jewish tradition of a golem or clay guardian. And “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Andrew Justvig, references the famous story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe.

“We asked ourselves: How can we create a fully-designed stage production while maintaining rigorous safety practices in which remote actors appear to share the same space?” Houghton said. “‘Illusionary Tales’ is the product of our theatrical research.” 

The production includes a surprise designed to captivate viewers: a theatre technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, borrowed from Victorian London and fine-tuned by the department’s design and technology students for a modern-day twist. 

“This project has been very different, and there have been plenty of difficulties, but the wonderful team we have makes the struggles exciting,” said Nathan Meyers, who plays Legend in “For Such a Time as This.” 

Sadie Veach, who plays Eliza in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” said, “The process of creating this show has been illuminating in every way possible. We are thriving. I’m a firm believer that the best art comes from restrictions because restrictions pave the way for creativity. This show is a gift.”

Because every production requires hours spent in rehearsal for every minute performed, Houghton emphasized the importance of mentoring throughout the process. “Experiential learning in the Theatre and Media Arts department involves students and faculty members working alongside one another in creative spaces such as Zoom meetings, rehearsal halls, workshops and theaters,” he said. The students gain valuable experience while also benefiting from the feedback mentors provide. 

Houghton expressed confidence that “Illusionary Tales” will be the first of many successful events throughout the season. “Audiences will witness the expression of our students’ research and learning: new plays, new designs, new stage effects, new meaning for our lives,” he said.

Performances of “Illusionary Tales” will be streamed live October 29-31 at 7:30 p.m.