I went to see an actual play, in person, with humans. The last play-ish thing I saw was Bread and Puppets on March 10. I don’t know if I have gone five months without seeing or doing a play since I was in middle school. Probably not.
I went mostly because I was curious about how the American Shakespeare Center would do a play in the midst of All This. They had a “Safe Start” plan, but I don’t know all the details. It involved having all 17 actors be in a quarantine bubble. Audiences had to wear masks. For their indoor shows at the Blackfriars Playhouse, they sold only half of the seats. I attended an outdoor performance at the Blackburn Inn (formerly a mental hospital, which I thought was kind of interesting since Malvolio is treated as insane near the end of the play…).
The company had some conflict over their plan with Actors’ Equity and SDC. I don’t know enough about that to comment, so please don’t ask.
The theater had clearly thought carefully about the setup at the Inn. They had ushers all over the place to make sure people were following the guidelines. There were markers to keep everyone at least six feet apart in line for food and at the contactless box office. The program was virtual, so I don’t have the traditional playbill shot to share. The audience area was marked off into 8′ squares with wide aisles between them. The aisles had arrows to indicate traffic flow. Each square could comfortably hold four people, assuming they were from the same “quaran-team.”
The topography of the land created a natural “stage” area, on a little rise. The actors had curtains for entrances, and this created a natural “backstage” area. They used the landscape well, sometimes hiding behind the trees.
Twelfth Night is one of my very favorite plays, and I was so glad to have the chance to share it with Silas and Petra. Because they look enough alike that people often confuse them, they thought the core plot made total sense. They loved the goofiness of the box tree scene and were thrilled to see Malvolio in his yellow stockings.
I am happy that I got to see a play, and, given the current circumstances, I can’t imagine that I would feel safe seeing an indoor production, or one where the actors hadn’t been on lock-down. This is a strange and upsetting time in the performing arts, but seeing different companies navigate the present challenges is truly inspiring.
For plays that don’t involve the risk of being with people, I’ve started a calendar of online plays; there are so many, I felt like I couldn’t keep track! Check it out, and please send me any info on upcoming work that I could include.