From across the pond an idea for keeping theatrical creation alive despite social distancing comes this way via Folger bulletin. Door Shakespeare — from 1995 performing in the fascinating Garden of Björklunden, a wide peninsula estate located on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, ended up being hoovered by the net too. How that happened, is what makes it peculiar in the details.
Brainstorming on the above, artistic director Michael Stebbins and managing director Amy Ensign came up with a rather unique approach to their virtual production. First and foremost opting for a quite neglected Shakespeare-inspired play — J.M. Barrie’s Rosalind, furthermore for the use of Zoom as rehearsal environment rather than a `live` performance `stage`.
The aim being to produce a `filmed` version of a `new` production — as for in `old `productions available online from other companies around the world, some other adjustments had to be made. So that actors could perform in their individual homes, but rehearsing and performing on, and with, the `same` set, props and costumes, `as if` sharing one `common space`.
That is how set designer Jody Sekas built three identical fireplaces and mantles, — which director himself delivered at each actor’s place with a U-Haul cargo, and props, — three pairs for each item, from teapot, to tablecloths, framed photos, steins with flowers, candles and bases, and also two pairs of pocket photo holders, plus one knapsack for `Charles` via Amazon.
Each actor used his or her iPhone to record, improvised as `light designer` manipulating table or floor lamps, while partners or spouses lent a hand — literally, `doubling` actors in passing objects. FaceTime was used to show how the shots were framed, while Zoom to record the scenes in real time. Eventually, Ryan Schabach, self-taught film-maker, edited the sequences — `shot` from different angles, together.
The final product is neither a film, nor a theatrical experience but a quite memorable mirabilia of this specific time of distance which calls for art to be, `despite`. Something quite similar to what Shakespeares’s heroine of Arden is called to accomplish in order to just `be`, — in (as a character per the original), and off (as an actress per Barrie’s script) stage.
Shakespeare Rosalind’s `labour` to educate Orlando in the matters of love in order to enter marriage on her own terms demands quite a journey into the `green` space of transformation — the forest. Barrie’s `Rosalind`, — Mrs Page, `Beatrice` (of all names), also has to sacrifice quite a lot in order to serve art, whilst be true to herself. Forever 29, `despite` her (longed for?) middle-age.
CHARLES: My dear, I want to be your Orlando to the end. Do you hear me?
MRS. PAGE: Yes.
CHARLES. I will take you out of that hurly-burly and accompany you into the delicious twilight of middle-age.