The coronavirus pandemic not only moved UND’s courses online last spring, but also halted theater productions for the campus. Left to decide how to fill their schedule this fall, UND theater students and faculty got together and brainstormed ideas about a topic close to everyone: the highs and lows of 2020.

“Once the World Stopped” follows a group of high school students 30 years into the future learning about the many events of 2020. Mr. Silverside, the class substitute, takes the class on a journey to the past through his experiences, stories and interactive assignments.

The production was written, directed and filmed by UND students and focuses on the various events of the past year from the panic of COVID-19 to the many TikTok trends to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The production came together in about a month and a half, Brad Reissig, associate chair of UND’s theatre arts program, said, which is a testament to the work of the students.

“Our students are really amazing to put in an amazing effort to get this done,” he said. “The fact that something didn't exist a month and a half ago, and now it's completed. I'm so proud of them for that.”

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In order to maintain safety and health of the audience, the production will be available online only. Tickets will be $8 and can be purchased through the UND Theatre’s online box office at https://burtness.und.edu or call (701) 777-2587.

UND student and actress/writing team member Erin Chaves said the goal was to create a piece that would be relatable to multiple audiences and that also carried a strong message. When meetings about the production got started this fall, students spoke about their experiences from the summer, whether that included learning a new recipe or watching a new show or dealing with more serious topics, such as the Black Lives Matter movement or losing a job.

“From there, we just kind of found the main ideas we wanted to touch on and create a story,” she said.

The production was filmed in a COVID-safe environment, at least as much as possible. Actors wore clear face masks and the filming and production crew was limited to as few as people as possible, according to assistant director Dylan Merritt.

“It's a very weird and tedious process of getting all this done in a socially distanced environment and making sure everyone's safe,” he said of the student-led effort which offered opportunities to learn new skills in production and editing.

Chaves said she had had an interest in creative writing in the past, but never had the chance to put that passion into action until this show.

“Working on the show has made me want to look into playwriting more in the future, and that's not something I know I would have discovered if it hadn't been for this process,” she said.

While Merritt and Chaves say they miss the feeling of live theater, they’re excited for the show to reach a larger audience online.

“Even though I do miss live theater, I understand why it has to be this way,” Chaves said. “It makes sense, it's safest for everyone, and it'll be back. For now, this is a fun alternative.”

Reissig noted that people from all across the community and the country will be able to watch a UND production easily from the comfort of their home.

“It's been an interesting way to think about growing your audience as well,” he said. “I am thankful that people that normally don’t get to see what our students do.. I’m very proud of them.”