C/O Kevin Patrick Robbins

MSU clubs that had to improvise during online school reflect on their first year back in person as they look forward to fall 2022 

Last September, many McMaster Students Union clubs restarted in-person meetings after a school year spent online. During the pandemic, some MSU clubs found it difficult to maintain their numbers and had unique challenges to work around because of the nature of online connections. 

With online school, Mac Improv did their best to continue the spirit of improvisation over Zoom calls and shows. Vice President of outreach and soon to be Co-President of Mac Improv, Dabeer Abdul-Azeez, spoke about how online meetings may have hindered improv, but also allowed the team to try new things using technology.  

“[We] held online practices still. They were held over Zoom, so it was very awkward because a lot of improv has to do with being onstage and body language. [It’s] very awkward when you’re just sitting [and] the camera can only see so much of your person. But we tried, nonetheless, and still held practices,” said Abdul-Azeez. 

Despite the added challenges, Mac Improv still put on a few virtual shows during the year using new types of online games they wouldn’t usually get to use to improvise with such as Among Us. 

“There were some digital games that we tried that we normally wouldn’t have done in person. [We used] technology to help provide suggestions for the scenes or things like that,” said Abdul-Azeez.  

This year, Mac Improv was almost back to pre-COVID practices, with exceptions for McMaster’s COVID safety rules. After meeting together twice a week this school year, Mac Improv is working on putting together an in-person show on April 14 at the Westdale Theatre. 

Absolute Pitch, McMaster’s official show choir, also felt a hit to their club during online school. Unfortunately, their 2020 annual show was scheduled just one week after McMaster closed. Club President Haleigh Wallace expressed that having a year’s worth of work not end up on stage was frustrating, but that the club was able to adapt using individual recordings and mixing them together virtually. 

“Our vocal directors ended up getting really good at audio mixing and we all would sit alone in our rooms and record our own vocal lines and then they would all get mixed together so that we sounded like one in person choir,” said Wallace. 

Wallace also mentioned that there were fewer new faces during the online year, but is hopeful that with in-person meetings coming back, first-years will be excited to join new clubs. Their show this year, Retro Rewind, took place on April 3 in person live at Kenneth Taylor Hall. 

“I think the two main things we’re really excited about are hopefully an in-person clubs fest or some sort of similar event where we can recruit a lot more new members because our cast is very small this year,” said Wallace. 

The McMaster Musical Theatre opted to keep their show online this year. Carly Black, Vice President External of McMaster Musical Theatre, spoke about keeping members during their year online.  

“Our plan and our hope was to be back in person . . . We got to go back into a few rehearsals in-person, but by that time, we lost so much rehearsal time already because of McMaster pushing back its opening day to February. It was just going to be so difficult to pull together the show when we lost so much time,” said Black. 

The Musical Theatre also saw a drop in students auditioning during the online school year similar to Mac Improv and Absolute Pitch. 

“I definitely think there were less people that auditioned when it was online. Just because, you know, lots of people want to do an in-person show. It’s just very different online . . . [For] a lot of people, things changed in their lives during the pandemic. So, a lot of people just didn’t do as many things [or] join as many clubs, which is completely understandable,” said Black. 

A consensus across clubs was that recruitment dropped significantly throughout the pandemic, as it was difficult to predict whether we would be online or in person or what the clubs would look like.  

However, with McMaster soon to drop mask mandates campus-wide, MSU clubs may look very different come this upcoming fall. Hopefully, more in-person engagement and connections are to come.  

Image courtesy of 2018 Kevin Patrick Robbins

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