Did theatre take a beating in 2020? Let’s be honest; we all did, and we’re all exhausted. But while the production of new plays may have slowed and swerved in the past twelve months, resourceful playwrights, producers, and directors adapted to staging new plays in new ways.
Salt Lake Acting Company put out a call for short plays that were filmed in several locations simultaneously, with each actor performing in their own home, and then shared online via YouTube. The majority of the eight original comedy vignettes were penned by local writers and took a wry look at quarantine life in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.* SLAC also continued its New Play Sounding series, albeit virtually; this year featured a number of new pieces: Daddy Issues by Kimi Handa Brown; Hairy & Sherry by Adrienne Dawes; and Egress by Melissa Crespo and Sarah Saltwick.
Plan-B Theatre Company took their entire 2020–21 season online, recording two new plays and a set of shorter pieces as audio dramas, complete with music and foley. The plays, all world premieres, were rehearsed via Zoom with the final recordings made available to stream via Plan-B’s new smartphone app for a set window of time. Julie Jensen’s P.G. Anon started the audible season, followed by Matthew Ivan Bennett’s Art & Class. The season finale was comprised of four world premiere short plays by Tatiana Christian, Chris Curlett, Dee-Dee Darby Duffin, and Tito Livas; all four are members of Plan-B’s Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop. Core to Plan-B’s mission is consistent support of new work. Their monthly Lab meetings, in which local writers share new pieces with each other, have been meeting virtually now for more than a year.
In downtown Salt Lake City, a 5,000-square-foot mural honoring more than 250 women who have made an impact in Utah was recently completed. The Utah Women mural was created by Jann Haworth and Alex Johnston with contributions from 178 artists. PYGmalion Theatre Company commissioned local female playwrights to create short works affiliated with the women portrayed in the mural; those plays were then performed and edited together as If This Wall Could Talk which was available to audiences via streaming.**
Always a destination for new work and rising voices, the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival almost didn’t happen in 2020. Ultimately, its staff decided to take the Fringe online, providing a streaming venue for 38 one-act plays. Many of these were new plays, some created specifically to tackle the challenges of Zoom theatre.
An Other Theatre Company presented a new, devised piece online, Something to Cry About, by Shelby Noelle Gist and Dorsey Williams, as well as a virtual reading of Chelsea Hickman’s new play, Tethered. Realizing the difficulties of performing via Zoom, AOTC presented a series of discussions about important topics within the theatre, with each session highlighting the voices of a specific marginalized group: BIPOC, trans, LGBTQ+, disabled, fat, and women theatre artists.
*Salt Lake Acting Company Digital Shorts
- *BLEEP* by Ava Kostia
- Editing 2020 by Nicholas Dunn
- Brown Bananas by Troy Deutsch
- Somebody Died, Beverly by Tito Livas
- These Latter-er Latter Days by Heather Nowlin
- Dial-A-Laugh by Jerry Straley
- If It’s Good Enough for Costco by Olivia Custodio
- Online, a musical parody with lyrics by Justin Ivie
**If This Wall Could Talk playwrights
View this Region's latest additions to the Dramatists Diary