A little less Zoom and a little more in-person
C/O Kyle Head
Clubs reflect on the previous year and prepare for a new year as students are welcomed back on campus
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and conditions rapidly change, students have also been doing their best to adapt their extracurricular activities. Starting Sept. 9, 2021, McMaster Students Union clubs are to follow a new set of guidelines tailored to in-person events.
Although in-person events are permitted, events are limited to 100 people outdoors or 25 people indoors. Students must always adhere to any physical distancing or room capacity limits as well.
Following the same format as the year before, MSU Clubsfest took place online. For the virtual Clubsfest, MSU Clubs features a variety of clubs from the five divisions—academic, cultural, recreational, religious and social issues — across their social media.
With over 300 clubs under the MSU, many clubs do not require students to gather in person. On the other hand, there are also clubs that operate heavily with in-person events.
Absolute Pitch, McMaster’s show choir, is one such club. As a show choir, the club involves singing and dancing for live performances. This year, Hayleigh Wallace, Absolute Pitch’s president, said that all auditions and rehearsals will be done in person.
However, the club will still be following all protocols and thus, the cast may be smaller than usual in order to abide by the 25 person gathering limit.
For performances where the club can’t have a live audience, such as their annual coffee house performance in November, those will be recorded beforehand.
Looking back on how the previous year went for the club when everyone had to be done online, Wallace said the club learned a lot about being flexible.
“I think we also just learned a lot about flexibility and we’re going to try not to enforce really hard deadlines this year, or like, we need to have this number perfected by this day. We understand that it’s okay to be flexible,” said Wallace.
Auditions for Absolute Pitch are being held Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 for both the vocal and dance cast. The club is also currently recruiting band members.
Similar to Absolute Pitch, the McMaster Musical Theatre is another club that bases its operations heavily on in-person gatherings. This year, the MMT will also be having their rehearsals in person and will be recording any performances that cannot have a live audience.
Due to the fact that MMT’s cast and crew will likely be over the 25 person limit, Isabel Diavolitsis, MMT’s president, expressed that the club plans to split up the cast and crew for rehearsals in order to follow the protocols.
Last year, with everything being done online, MMT asked club members to record individual videos of themselves reimagining and reenacting songs or scenes that they love.
Although there were some challenges, Diavolitsis said the club was able to learn from the experience.
“[There] definitely was a learning curve I'm sure like at the beginning of the year just sort of getting into it how are we going to do this and I’m sure lots of clubs had that sort of awakening. But then, after that, things started to run a bit more smoothly. I think folks have now learned that there are some things you can teach virtually which is kind of cool and maybe will reduce the amount of time we have to spend in person, especially if we want to keep limiting contact,” said Diavolitsis.
Mac One Act, a club that offers students the opportunity to participate in a variety of short plays, is also planning on incorporating in-person performances this year.
Toluwalase Awonuga, president of Mac One Act, said that the club plans to do in-person plays, but will also have some virtual plays to allow those who can’t make it in person to join.
Each play involves a group of typically no larger than six, so Awonuga believes the club should have no difficulty adhering to the COVID-19 protocols during rehearsals.
The club is looking to include both virtual and in-person plays in their final showcase in the Winter semester. Awonuga expressed that their hope is to offer the showcase to a live audience, but also online as well.
Currently, the club is reviewing scripts for their plays this year and auditions will begin at the end of October.
Aside from performance-based clubs, other clubs such as the Mac Soup Kitchen, also involve in-person activities.
Mac Soup Kitchen is a club that advocates food security, fundraises for various food accessibility programs and helps organize volunteers for local food banks and soup kitchens.
Vanessa Wong, one of MSK’s co-presidents, said that last year, the club shifted from volunteering and fundraising to more advocacy-related activities. This included online events such as a games night and coordinating a virtual food drive.
“Asking students to provide monetary donations is kind of [something] we didn't feel like was the right thing to do, knowing that everyone was you know going through hardship last year, so we wanted to just shift our focus to spreading awareness of food insecurity,” said Wong.
Arushi Wadhwa, MSK’s other co-president, said that a positive from last year was being able to reach out to a wide range of people through social media. However, conducting synchronous online events posed a challenge at times as the club is used to advertising for events on campus through posters or drop-ins to classrooms.
“[T]here were definitely some drawbacks, but given all of that we've definitely learned a lot [from] hosting like completely online events last year and we're really excited to implement new changes and see where MSK goes this year,” said Wadhwa.
This year, due to the difficulty of contact tracing, Wong and Wadhwa said they plan to remain mostly online.
“Keeping everyone safe is our number one priority, so we are going to remain mainly online, explained Wadhwa.
However, the club will be facilitating some in-person volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens if any club members express interest in doing so. MSK will not be heavily involved in the entire volunteering process but will help inform volunteers of when food banks or soup kitchens need volunteers.