Theater in a Plague Year I: Online productions with Spooky Action Theater
When the COVID-19 crisis struck early last year, resulting in a near-complete shutdown of the entertainment industry, some theater companies took the initiative and started searching for ways to present, if not live theater, then at least actors reacting to each other in real time. The technology that permitted this was Zoom. Far from perfect in terms of sound and image quality, the real-time connection of Zoom nonetheless provided a means to preserve this essential element of the theater experience.
After a few experiments in late spring of 2020, Spooky Action Theater in Washington DC devised a way to create a more fully-realized production: record the actors on Zoom, place them into a graphic environment using graphic- and video-design tools, and hand the result off to me to design sound and music to, as well as doing the final mix. From June 2020 to September 2021, I had the opportunity to design and compose sound (and occasionally, edit the video) for a total of 19 productions, from short one-acts to full-length productions. This gave me a chance to explore an unusually broad range of different styles and approaches.
Director Craig Baldwin, in particular seized an opportunity to take the creative process one step further: connect the Zoom screen to the world of graphic novels—passing from the attempt to present a virtual stage to a more successful realization of the work on a virtual page. Please see the associated video for excerpts from ZERO by Ian August, A Dog Is a Creature of a Nose by Emma Gibson, and Water Doesn't Kill by Alaina Messineo.
Other virtual productions (for a total of 14 scripts in 2021 alone) included:
- I’ve Seen It All by Olivier Sylvestre (tr. Richard Henrich) dir. Jeremy Keith Hunter
- Ladies Room by Alex Church-Gonzales, dir. Tẹmídayọ Amay
- The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard, dir. Richard Henrich
- Chicken is Condemned To Be Free by Jesse Jae Hoon, dir. Jeremy Keith Hunter
- Cindy the Dreamer by Julia Izumi, dir. Gillian Drake
- Collect Call by Marie-Ève Milot et Marie-Claude St-Laurent (tr. Richard Henrich), dir. José Zayas
- Adam + Rose by Emma Gibson, dir. José Zayas
- Final Contact by Alex Lin, dir. Jacob Janssen
- Artichoke Country by Laura Shamas, dir. Greg Strasser
- The World Is Sand by Jacob T. Zack, dir. Elizabeth Zinkova
- Hell: An Orientation by Bridget Grace Sheafff, dir. Samantha Wyer Bello
- The Devil Exclusive by Jeff Dunne, dir. Samantha Wyer Bello