5 Tips for Theatrical Productions During the Pandemic

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE

“Looking back on things, the view always improves”

Pogo Comic Strip

In keeping with the pandemic restrictions of COVID-19, the Virginia Stage Company (VSC) produced a Zoom reading in July of Nat’s Last Struggle by P. A. Wray. it played to a fairly “full house” and many of the attendees stayed afterwards for a spirited discussion of the script.

Wells Theatre 2-17-05

On August 9 at 3 pm, the Virginia Stage Company produced a reprisal of Terence Afer-Anderson’s outstanding performance. This reprisal was beamed t the public on Zoom and Patrick Mullins, the  Director of Public Works at the VSC, incorporated some new twists.  

We’ve all been learning a lot as we try different distancing media and Mullins was kind enough to share some of his observations about what made the productions of Nat’s Last Struggle successful and elements he would consider carefully for future virtual performances.

Here’s Patrick Mullins’ tips

THE DO’S

  1. Front light, front light, front light. We want to see the faces of your performers and panelists – not their silhouettes (unless it’s a choice). 
  2. Take visual risks. Just because it’s on zoom, doesn’t mean your actors just need to sit perfectly in their seats. Blocking and choreography are still helpful for interpretation of the play! Work that camera. And don’t forget that with zoom you have easy background and digital scenery options too. 
  3. Rehearsal and Tech are more crucial than you think. Whether FB LIve or Zoom or another platform, do a full tech rehearsal including a test stream or test audience.
  4. Be SUPER clear about how folks sign up and watch the show. I’ve often been late to watch something because it wasn’t as simple to get to the right screen as I’d anticipated.
  5. Be gentle on yourself. Tech issues WILL happen – sound, video, wifi, SOMETHING! That’s ok. (Remember when Sondheim’s 90th Birthday livestream on Youtube started hours late? You’re not alone).

“Note: Streaming directly from Zoom to FB can be full of technical glitches. We’ve had much better success connecting a Zoom livestream to YouTube when working through just the Zoom client. Or utilize an additional client like Open Broadcast Software.”

And from his own personal experience of what rattles his cage when he’s a viewer –

THE DON’Ts

  1. Read TO me
  2. Talk AT me. 
  3. Act like you’re in a theatre when you’re not
  4. Be afraid of technology; learn to use it and use it to your advantage. Play to that camera. Modulate your gestures.

And what would he like to see more of as we all learn to use this new entertainment venue which will probably stay with us in some capacity after the pandemic subsides?

The Path Ahead for Virtual Theatre

  • Interactive Discussion
  • Use of chat windows and reactions that impact performances or story telling
  • More Civic discourse
  • More use of technology to deepen our processes and connectability in ways that will last past 2020
  • More use of technology to build more equitable work and theatre processes

Nat’s Last Struggle is a powerful catalyst for discussion around the topics of slavery, racism, anti-racism and social justice. Check out the specifications for each version below.

Scripts of both Nat’s Last Struggle and Nat Turner’s Last Struggle: Finding His Way Home are available for purchase at Blue Moon Plays.

One thought on “5 Tips for Theatrical Productions During the Pandemic

  1. I am contemplating starting a Readers Theatre through Zoom for a group of members of the Richland Seniors Association. I would be the facilitator (or director) but I need to find some appropriate plays to present to the group. I hold a B.A. in Theatre Arts and I am a founder of a conservatory of theatre for children, where I held the position of Executive Director and also taught and directed for 10 years. Working in this way would be totally new for me as would working with seniors. Do you have any advice for me?
    caroljgoth@yahoo.com (509) 572-2330
    Carol J. Goth

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