One of the many problems caused by COVID-19 is people can’t go out to watch theater anymore. Well, that problem is going to be solved by Bainbridge Performing Arts, sort of.
Starting Oct. 2, BPA is going to be showing free theater – but online with Bainbridge Pod Accomplice that you can enjoy anytime at Bainbridge PerformingArts.org.
“It is the most exciting, most actively engaging, and most virus-proof community-based artistic endeavor currently programmed on Bainbridge Island,” said Dominique Cantwell, BPA executive director. “It is of interest to every family to remain connected during the dark months of autumn and winter, and we hope that you’ll join us in trying to help foster this new avenue of creativity and illumination.”
Episodes are rehearsed remotely and recorded in compliance with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of performers.
Deirdre Hadlock, the production manager, said that has brought about some major challenges.
“Probably the biggest adjustment is rehearsals in the virtual world,” Hadlock said, adding “pets and their children and their home life behind them is somewhat entertaining.”
It makes it harder to have input with actors.
“You can’t wander into the same room with the people you’re interacting with,” she said. “There’s an energy about live theater. But this is a safer medium for us right now.”
When actors are brought together for recording, they are asked a series of questions about their health. Their temperatures are taken. They have to wear masks unless speaking their lines. And their six microphones are placed 6 feet apart.
Hadlock said there advantages to just doing audio and not video. Actors can stay 6 feet away from each other because the intimate connection isn’t as necessary. They can also read their lines that can be right in front of them, instead of having to memorize them. That means plays can be put together much faster.
Because it doesn’t take three months to get a play ready – instead only about a handful of rehearsals – people are participating who haven’t before because they couldn’t devote that much time to a project.
“Calls for actors have brought an interesting mix of new folks, old friends and even some who have moved away,” Hadlock said, adding that people who might not be considered for a certain role because of age, gender or other physical characteristic called for in the script could get a part based on their voice.
“It widens the pool,” she said.
Hadlock said actors seem to enjoy the new challenge. “They’re able to really make choices and explore things that they can’t live on stage,” she said.
Directors are challenged picking actors based only on their voice recording. “It’s a really interesting process,” Hadlock said.
Another advantage is instead of working so hard for only three weeks of shows, the online audio could be available forever.
Once COVID hit, BPA started brainstorming right away in an effort to keep bringing theater to the public despite all the restrictions. They combined with BARN for a parody of the legendary radio show Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.
“It was a mini version of what we’re doing now,” Hadlock said. “The reception was so great” we expanded on that. “We were creating in a limited way as soon as we could.”
Cantwell says BPA hopes to be back to normal in 2021.
“While we don’t know what the coronavirus has in store for all of us this fall and winter, we’re delighted to be able to plan for something you can count on… Whether we’re six feet, six miles, or six continents apart, islanders can still find a way to be together, and we’re here to help as your creative neighborhood accomplice for surviving these strange and trying times,” Cantwell says on the BPA website.
Every Friday in October a different play will debut. The schedule is:
•Oct. 2 – Sounds of the Silenced, uplifts and weaves together voices that have been oppressed – whether by circumstance of history, internal sentiment or tragedy. Features works of Bainbridge Island composer and improviser Webster Gadbois.
•Oct. 9 – Devised Audio Horror from BPA Theatre School students, mildly spooky and majorly fun double feature of one act plays.
•Oct. 16 – Legends: Royalty of Hollywood Horror, stars read classic Halloween tales, including “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
•Oct. 23 – Legends: Terrors of Northwest Storytelling, features Bainbridge’s folklorist Birke Duncan in “The Troll Tale: A Radio Play.”
•Oct. 30 – Carmilla, new adaptation of the story that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Carmilla is the seductive tale that established the modern vampire legend.