I participated in these three virtual theatre pieces last week and you should too

Here are a few rusty reviews for you…because it’s been a while since I had the chance to tell you all about something I saw. But this week I was invited to “attend” Lantern Theater Company’s newly filmed production of Molly Sweeney and Being/With:Home from the Nichole Canuso Dance Company. And because I actually had a bit of extra free time last week, I also had a chance to check out Clay, the audio short from Wilma Theater’s HotHouse Shorts series. I say I participated in these because virtual theatre performances aren’t just something to watch. You really need to be immersed in the moment, just like you would be at an actual theatre as the lights dim around you. I’m so thrilled that after nearly a year at home, I finally had a chance to be a part of these original works before they ended their runs.

Molly Sweeney from Lantern Theater Company (by playwright Brian Friel & directed by Peter DeLaurier)
Available until February 28th
Molly is a 41 year old Irish woman who is blind, but instead of being sent to a school for the blind, her father raised her to be fully aware of and in touch with herself and her surroundings. What happens when she is given the opportunity to see again, thanks to ophthalmologist Dr. Rice? Will she adapt? Molly is already so connected to her world. Will eyesight cause a disconnect? Will she have to learn about the world and what’s in it all over again? We hear Molly’s story from her point of view, as well as the views of her husband Frank who insists on the surgery and her doctor who has his reservations. Same story, three different perceptions.

Molly Sweeney (a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award-winning play) is a must. If you’re missing live theatre, the Lantern Theater Company’s production makes you feel like you’re in the front row. The show is intimate- one performer on stage, soft lighting, simple background. You’re tuned in to what each person is saying and with no distractions. It’s actually the perfect play for Covid era restrictions as the cast is small (three actors) and not much physical action occurs on stage. Everyone can be at a distance. The play was filmed at St. Stephen’s Theater in Philly with strict adherence to all CDC, state, and local health and safety guidelines. It’s hard to be completely focused on a performance when you’re viewing from home, but Molly Sweeney isn’t a very visual show. Close your eyes and listen even. Shut out everything else around you. The stories that are told in Molly and about Molly are what matters the most.
This show has been extended through February 28th. Tickets are $20 per household and available at http://www.lanterntheater.org or by calling the box office at (215) 829-0395. Lantern Theater Company is also pulling four performances from their archives for you to view at home. These begin on March 2nd with The Craftsman by Bruce Graham (running until March 28th). Visit their website for the line-up, dates, and details to purchase a digital archive pass.

Clay from Wilma Theater’s HotHouse Company (Lead Artist & Co-Creator / Performer: Krista Apple, Co-Creators / Performers: Jered McLenigan, Brandon J. Pierce, Brett Ashley Robinson, Sound Designer & Audio Engineer: Twi McCallum)
Available until March 7th
Listen. No, really. Listen. It’s an audio play, and it’s only about 30 minutes long. That’s enough time to brew a cup of coffee or tea…which is what you’ll be prompted to do before the show starts. This is perfect for a mid afternoon break. Coincidentally, I actually cleaned out my mug cabinet (again) earlier in the day before sitting down to listen to Clay. Each one tells a story, so it’s hard to get rid of them. I laughed when a faded college mug really was mentioned in the show because I added my “I earned my degree and this mug from York College” mug into the donate pile just hours before.

Clay focuses on a specific object. A mug. Where it’s been, what it’s made of, where it has traveled to and who it belonged to over so many years. Like the other performances I was a part of last week, this one also focuses on stories that intertwine and connect, whether intentional or not. One object, many journeys. I thought about Clay‘s message for a while last Thursday night. I hope you do too .

Take a listen before March 7th. The third short in this series, Expired, recently started it’s open ended run. These shows are free to attend (of course a donation to the theater is always appreciated). Register here.

Being/With: Home (feature photo; Nichole Canuso Dance Company)
February 11-24, 2021, February 25-March 14
In case what I’m about to go on about isn’t completely clear, take a look at the full press release on Being/With: Home that I posted last week. This is an interactive experience! You are one of the stars of the show- the piece brings together two solo audience members at a time (in your own separate location) for a virtual encounter. It’s very intimate and therapeutic.

Despite not knowing exactly what to expect, I looked forward to this experience. You’re asked to set aside about an hour, have three objects that mean something to you on hand, a quiet room, and space to move around. I was surprised to discover how our objects complimented each other and how easily I could related to the other person’s stories. It’s also incredible to see how the moderators on the call work with what you provide to create a unique, one-hour “show”. They adapt to you, and you adapt to the partner you just met. This is something you can easily get addicted to, meeting a new person for just a little while and creating stories and movements over and over. Then, you wave goodbye and that’s it, but the experience will certainly stick with you. You can learn so much about a person from one story and one brief encounter. Still, so much about that person will forever remain a mystery.

Being/With: Home was created by writer/choreographer Nichole Canuso and will hopefully premiere in-person in Fall 2021. It works beautifully at home, though, and if you’re interested in mixing up what is likely a dull routine right now (because of Covid!), give Being/With: Home a try. It’s exciting and meaningful. Step out of the comfort zone you may have created this year and do this.

Being/With: Home is currently being hosted virtually through The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The performances are free, but all booked up. You can add your name to a waitlist here. From February 25th to March 15th, Being/With: Home will take place virtually with the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine. Tickets are $15 and available here.

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