The­ater

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and dra­matur­gi­cal notes on­line, and the broad­cast was fol­lowed by a heavy in­tel­lec­tual dis­cus­sion of its themes that lasted longer than the per­for­mance. Like the live, in-per­son Cabaret shows, “Ain’t No Dead Thing” had a few sched­uled per­for­mances, then van­ished.

“Ain’t No Dead Thing” may ac­tu­ally have been im­proved from be­ing adapted to an­other medium. It’s an in­tense so­cial drama set dur­ing the Tulsa Race Mas­sacre in 1921, but the play sounds like it’s hap­pen­ing in the present day. Its lan­guage is loose and ca­sual. It doesn’t dwell in his­tor­i­cal facts, fo­cus­ing in­stead on deep dis­cus­sions of re­la­tion­ship is­sues like trust, equal­ity and the mu­tual de­ci­sion to be­come par­ents. It’s a weighty, thought­ful script I was happy to ex­pe­ri­ence in any form, and which I’d love to catch again some day.

On the morn­ing of April 18, clean­ing the house on a rainy Satur­day, I ca­su­ally checked out the third round of the “Quick Quar­an­tined Play Fes­ti­val” which had just been posted by the New Haven-based Vin­tage Soul

Pro­duc­tions on its Face­book page. At first I felt com­fort­able just lis­ten­ing to the voices, but soon I re­al­ized how much I was miss­ing so I stopped sort­ing mag­a­zines and sat down to watch. When I’d been through all the plays in round three, I watched rounds one and two.

These com­pelling playlets are each writ­ten within a 24-span by a range of dif­fer­ent writ­ers, then handed off to ac­tors and di­rec­tors who also have just a day to re­hearse, stage and turn them into … videos?

No, se­ri­ously, they’re plays.

The un­adorned mono­logues have the straight­for­ward ap­peal of peo­ple pour­ing their hearts out in an en­closed space. They have a the­atri­cal flair. The ac­tors tend to emote in a world­weary, iso­lated man­ner, as if they’re cry­ing in the wilder­ness. Their en­vi­ron­ments can vary from apart­ments to cars to plain pa­per back­drops hung on a wall. One of my fa­vorites — “Mas­ter Chef Ju­nior” by Lori Sin­clair Mi­nor, per­formed by Jhu­lenty Delos­santo — sets up an anx­ious din­ner date. It starts with a close-up, then brings you into a kitchen, then ends with a long shot of its dispir­ited star sit­ting at a ta­ble. Sounds filmic, but “Mas­ter Chef Ju­nior” is fluid and raw and be­haves like live the­ater.

An en­dear­ing young ac­tor named Ben McCor­mack, who’s ac­tive in mu­si­cal the­ater in Fair­field County, ap­pears in a cou­ple dif­fer­ent love­struck one acts, and sings REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” in both. Cin Martinez, whose Puerto Ri­can fam­ily drama “Pe­gao” pre­miered at HartBeat En­sem­ble last year, con­tributed a three-part saga of in­ter­re­lated per­sonal sto­ries about an im­pend­ing wed­ding, the post­pone­ment of which is seed­ing fresh doubts among the par­tic­i­pants. Martinez isn’t the only play­wright to turn the as­sign­ment into a tril­ogy: Emily Breeze, a Guil­ford na­tive and former artis­tic res­i­dent at the Long Wharf Theatre, crafted the in­ter­lock­ing mys­ter­ies “The Warn­ing,” “Essential” and “An­swer.” Spe­cial vis­ual effects and shift­ing an­gles don’t de­tract from the di­rect­ness of the nar­ra­tive. The open­ing “Warn­ing,” mood­ily acted by A.J. Lovelace sets a mys­te­ri­ous tone, then is fol­lowed by two nat­u­ral­is­tic fe­male mono­logues that bring the drama down to earth.

Sharece M. Sellem, who con­ceived and pro­duces the Quick Quar­an­tined OneActs series, has de­clared that the project will con­tinue through the du­ra­tion of the cur­rent coron­avirus shut­down. That’s a lot of an­guish to pile on YouTube. These plays can be har­row­ing and full of de­spair. You feel like a voyeur watch­ing them. But they are strangely com­fort­ing and so worth­while. The fourth round was sched­uled to be posted on­line May 2.

The same Satur­day as my Quick Quar­an­tine binge marked the live-on­line pre­miere of the Vir­tual One-Act Play Fes­ti­val, a rather am­bi­tious lo­cal project that brought to­gether com­mu­nity the­ater mavens from through­out the state, and was or­ga­nized by those with ties to one of the big­gest com­mu­nity-based the­ater op­er­a­tions in the state, the Warner Theatre in Tor­ring­ton. Scripts had been so­licited from national play­wrights, then pre­pared by lo­cal Con­necti­cut tal­ent.

The Vir­tual One Act Fes­ti­val was pre­sented, as most things are these days, in the flat mul­ti­screen

Zoom man­ner, with each ac­tor given their own screen. The fes­ti­val had a lot of fun with this for­mat, which suited the scripts in un­fore­seen ways.

One of the best things about live the­ater is that as much as it can try to fo­cus your at­ten­tion, your eyes can still hap­pily wan­der — to the re­ac­tions of other char­ac­ters, to the set, to the over­all pic­ture. Hav­ing each char­ac­ter in a play in their own lit­tle box can give an on­line the­ater­goer the same power. You can see some­one gamely try­ing to stay in char­ac­ter, with min­i­mum cos­tum­ing or props or sets, while some­one else, on a screen the same size, ex­pounds might­ily.

In “Just Desserts” by David McGre­gor, an ac­tor who’d eaten poi­soned food con­torted his face end­lessly while his cast­mates dis­cussed his fate, then con­vulsed out of the screen al­to­gether. Dag­ney Kerr’s “Ini­tial Ve­loc­ity,” a ro­man­tic duet about two jog­gers who have ex­pe­ri­enced love at first sight but who we fear will never meet and talk, was given a won­der­ful sur­prise end­ing when the char­ac­ters sud­denly ap­peared in one screen to­gether; the play was cast with a mar­ried cou­ple, Emily and Ian Diedrich, who are house­bound to­gether. Clever.

I’m not sure why it’s so im­por­tant to me that these videos, record­ings and glo­ri­fied Zoom meet­ings be per­ceived as “the­ater” rather than video or ra­dio, but that’s what I need them to be and that’s what they are: hu­man, vul­ner­a­ble, open, rough and nat­u­ral, just stuck in a de­vice for the time be­ing un­til the doors open and the cur­tains part on proper stages again.

VIN­TAGE SOUL PRO­DUC­TIONS

A.J. Lovelace in Emily Breeze’s “The Warn­ing,” part of Vin­tage Soul Pro­duc­tions’ Quick Quar­an­tined Play Fes­ti­val.

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