THEATRE IN THE AGE OF CHANGE
I, like many people I know, have spent the past few months feeling utterly stunned. Gobsmacked. Stupified. The adaptations we’ve had to make in how we live and communicate are unprecedented. Theatres have shut down and, denied the audience that is our life’s blood, we’ve been flailing about, trying to find a way to produce that is safe and doable with the skills we have.
At first, we at Flying Anvil Theatre clung to the idea that we might be able to get back to our space sooner rather than later. Actors need and want a live audience. The process of sharing a space, sharing breath with an audience is a vital, loved, sacred part of our process. How could we produce without that?
I’ve lost track of how many plans we’ve made and then tossed in the trash as the full import of the pandemic has been revealed. Opening dates penciled in and crossed out. Shows shifted and shifted again before being cancelled altogether. Most heartbreaking of all, theatre artists losing work. We abandoned trying to update the website with every change for fear of giving your brain whiplash. Truthfully, there are days I just want to climb in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep until it’s over.
Like every other theatre in the world, Flying Anvil Theatre has been trying to reimagine theatre in the age of Covid-19. We’ve gone virtual with our recent Zoom production. At first, I hated the idea. I mean, HATED. Talking heads in boxes on the computer sounded snooze-worthy. I struggled with the question of what do you need and want to hear in these times? A comedy with no live audience feels less funny. Is anybody in the mood for a somber story and heavy themes? Reluctantly, we chose Do You Read Me?, an entertaining piece of fluff written for Zoom that was easy to produce and offered good parts to a bunch of actors. The show was an experiment and not our usual kind of play, but thanks to a very dedicated tech guru and our generous audiences, we learned so much that will allow us to offer more challenging work in the future.
And thankfully, I think there is a future. We are zeroing in on a plan for a hybrid form of theatre – live on our stage but also streamed online. Hopefully, this will offer the best of both worlds – the production value and excitement of actors performing full out, but available to watch in your recliner while you binge on chocolate.
And it looks like you might keep that recliner busy for a while. Covid-19 cases are rising in Knox County. Judging by the audience response to our first virtual attempt, there's a real hunger for theatre in some form right now. We'll keep innovating ways to share stories with you and announce those plans in greater detail shortly.
And one more thing. We believe art can be an important agent of change. So how do we combat racism & microaggressions and lift BIPOC voices while also combatting the pandemic? How can we use theatre to challenge audiences (and ourselves) to examine our privilege and bias? Although Flying Anvil has always looked to hire black actors, we can and will do better. We will produce more plays by BIPOC writers and invite more diverse directors and designers to join our theatre family. We’re passionate about taking risks, and this challenge we embrace wholeheartedly.
Rip Van Winkle slept through the entire American Revolution. When he got home, his world had changed beyond recognition, so he spent the rest of his life drunk and oblivious. That's one choice. As theatre artists, we make the choice to learn and grow. We will share that journey with you through painful, beautiful, angry and loving stories. So stay tuned. I’ll be highlighting our progress in future blogs.
By the way - if you're a BIPOC playwright, director, designer or actor, send us your work or resume to email@example.com. We want to know you.
Thanks for reading. Personally, I cannot wait to see you at the theatre. Until then, we’ll do our best to create audacious, heartfelt theatre in whatever form available to us.