Kentucky playwrights dealt with closed theatre doors in many ways, but most of them brought their wares to the internet in one way or another. Writing groups met via Zoom. There were many Zoom readings, performances, and workshops. All of this I am glad and grateful for. It allowed theatre artists to remain connected to theatre and to other theatre artists; a lot of it may not have looked or felt like traditional theatre, but theatre happened just the same. If you’ve participated in anything online in the last year, I hope you’ve allowed it to feed your artistic soul as I have. Among other things, theatre in the pandemic has taught me about this fantastic tool for new play development that I had never thought of before: Zoom. Being able to rehearse, do read-throughs, talk about new plays, and offer feedback, all virtually with people from all over the world… it’s widened the net for many of us who may not have had the opportunity to connect otherwise, and I hope we find ways to continue to utilize it once our theatrical world normalizes and we’re all together again in person.
Some KY pandemic highlights:
Kentucky Playwrights Workshop has been hosting online developmental play readings for Kentucky playwrights for the better part of a year. One Monday a month, they invite professional actors and students to read works in progress, offering feedback and a sense of community. DG members served so far include Richard Cavendish, Tom Coash, Teri Foltz, A.K. Forbes, Emma Grace Imes, Bill McCann, Mike Oppenheim, Gray Shaw and James B. Wells.
Flashback Theatre of Somerset took a past production by Amber Frangos, Rosies: The Women who Riveted the Nation, and created weekly serials on their podcast, presenting one scene each week, in addition to hosting an online ten-minute play festival with scripts by local playwrights.
I have really enjoyed the Friday Night Footlights that I’ve hosted, four so far as of the writing of this column, for playwrights Emma Grace Imes, James Colgan, Cat Gougen and Amber Frangos. They have been a fun way to meet other Kentucky playwrights and showcase their work. Everyone assembled some great teams, and we’ve had some wonderful actors join us. Their performances were gifts to our pandemic weary playwrights. I hope to continue to host more of them online as more requests come in for them.
It must be said: Actors Theatre of Louisville, under the leadership of member Robert Barry Fleming, has done the most impressive pandemic pivot in Kentucky (or anywhere, for that matter). Starting last spring by taking their entire Humana Festival online, to the exciting and experimental content of their 2020-2021 season, they are embracing technology and reacting to the current moment, with projects including a production of Romeo and Juliet set against the Black Lives Matter movement, a theatrical video game, an animated play with music, and even online content for students.
I’m ready to be in theatres again, working side by side with other artists, but I’m grateful for my own online theatre experiences over the last year and continue to be impressed with my colleagues and their commitment to the theatre and keeping it, and their stories, alive.
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