MARYSVILLE — The Red Curtain Arts Center is bringing shows to your home via Zoom.
The Marysville theater is live-streaming “Something Rotten!” in August and “Six Degrees of Separation” in September.
“If we wanted to continue creating during the pandemic, and since our theater can’t open, we needed to find alternate revenue streams, so we decided to give this a shot,” said Scott B Randall, co-founder of the theater. Basically we’re doing a readers theater but over Zoom.”
What is readers theater? It’s a style of theater in which the actors present dramatic readings of plays or musicals while seated, without costumes, props, scenery or special lighting.
Red Curtain presented “Angels in America” in July. The play focuses on the stories of two troubled couples — one gay, one straight. Their fates, of partners Louis Ironson and Prior Walter, and of husband and wife Joe and Harper Pitt, quickly become intertwined.
Even though the play was 3 hours and 30 minutes — a long time to be sitting in front of a screen — both the actors and the audiences enjoyed the play and asked for more Zoom shows.
Doug Fahl played Roy Cohn in “Angels of America.” He wore a suit and tie to get into character as the reptilian, closeted lawyer.
“It was a lot of yelling — it’s a very intense role,” Fahl said of his Red Curtain debut. “The role was a lot of fun to play because Roy is quite different than me as a person.”
Next up is the Summer Star’s “Something Rotten!” A live-stream performance of the musical comedy is scheduled for Aug. 14-16 at the Red Curtain Arts Center via Zoom.
Set in 1595, the musical follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who struggle to find theatrical success as they compete with the popularity of their contemporary William Shakespeare.
The cast is made up of about 20 teenagers who enrolled in the Red Curtain’s summer camp. They rehearsed via Zoom — but they’ll perform the show on stage after temperature checks, wearing face masks and shields, frequent hand sanitation and maintaining a 6-foot distance. Four cameras will broadcast the show live.
Then “Six Degrees of Separation” follows Sept. 4-5 and Sept. 11-12 via Zoom. In the play, a young black con man named Paul insinuates himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple, Ouisa and Flan Kittredge, claiming he knows their son at college. It’s based on a true story.
Fahl will be playing Flan Kittregdge in “Six Degrees of Separation.” He said he’s looking forward to it, not only because it’s a timely play, but because he’ll have fun playing a “super wealthy” character.
Randall said he’s been wanting to direct the play for a long time because of its themes of connectivity and privilege.
“It’s a story about connectivity, and about how our lives are interconnected with everybody else’s lives,” he said, “which is a great theme to be looking at right now when none of us are connected.”
Red Curtain’s rehearsals last for three weeks — instead of eight weeks for a play or 10 for a musical — because the actors aren’t required to memorize their lines.
Randall said the challenge for actors putting a Zoom show is that they’re not sitting on stage with each other. They’re acting remotely from their own homes. They interact more with the screen in front of them than they do the rest of the cast.
“They’re just interacting with the camera, so that makes a big difference,” he said. “If you’re looking at the screen, you’re not actually looking at the camera. They’re seeing the other actors in their periphery.”
Randall, who directs these readers theaters, reminds them to put as much energy into a virtual performance as they do on stage.
“Making sure that there’s that theatricality — on stage everything is a little bit more than it would be in real life,” he said. “We want to give the audience the illusion that these actors are in the same space and are interacting with one another.”
In “Angels of America,” Fahl said all the actors had the same props, for the illusion of passing a sandwich, a legal contract or a cigarette between characters.
Maybe the actors don’t have to memorize their lines, but “Angels in America” and “Six Degrees of Separation” are complex plays.
“We’ll probably do a couple more online shows, depending on how long the pandemic lasts,” Randall said.
Randall said Red Curtain Arts Center will survive COVID-19 because it’s a nonprofit organization. It received a $27,000 loan to pay for the lease of the theater.
“The hardest part is that we’re so used to creating all the time,” he said, adding that the theater schedules 10 plays and 12 special events each year. “To go from a frantic schedule to nothing since March has been a real challenge for us as artists. We haven’t had an outlet.”
Red Curtain’s 2020-2021 season had to be revised because of the coronavirus. “The Odd Couple” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” have been replaced with Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” and “Legendary Tales: Heroes and Monsters.”
Next season also includes “Miracle on 34th Street,” “She Kills Monsters,” “As You Like It,” “The Rememberer” and “Into the Woods.” Season tickets for all seven shows are $125 for adults or $105 for seniors, students and military.
Tickets for Red Curtain’s Zoom shows are $15 or $40 per family — it’s a discount from the $20 tickets for shows at the Marysville theater. Call 360-322-7402 or go to www.redcurtainfoundation.org and click on the “Theatre Online” tab for more information.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarabruestle.
If you stream
A live-stream performance of Summer Stars’ “Something Rotten!” is scheduled for Aug. 14-16 at the Red Curtain Arts Center via Zoom. Set in 1595, the story follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who struggle to find theatrical success as they compete with the wild popularity of their contemporary William Shakespeare. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Six Degrees of Separation” will be live-streamed via Zoom at 7 p.m. Sept. 4-5 and Sept. 11-12. In the play, a young black con man named Paul, insinuates himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple, Ouisa and Flan Kittredge, claiming he knows their son at college. Actors perform their roles remotely in the reader’s theater style.