Happy March, friends!! Can you believe it has now been one year since we entered the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s been a long, exhausting year, and yet time feels so amorphous and non-linear as we mark this inauspicious milestone.
Some good things are finally happening as we enter the second year of the pandemic: as of this writing, 96 million Americans have received at least the first dose of their vaccine protocol (yay, science!) and the U.S. House and Senate passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. These are both GREAT things we need RIGHT NOW. But it has been a year and a half since an Honest Pint production has tread the boards of a theater. We can barely believe it as we write this. All we can do it stay focused on the job ahead, which is to stay healthy and safe and to keep working toward re-opening as soon as possible. In the meantime, we continue our work on our original piece we are creating with Tamara Kissane, which we unofficially title “The Kafka Project.” Stay tuned for more details as they unfold.
A big thank you to everyone who sent us their childhood memories of their dolls and toys. It was heartwarming to read your tender recollections of your best friends. If you haven’t yet sent us your story, please feel free to do so. We want as many as we can get, and we will use them to create a community experience for audiences when the show opens. Please email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org Tell us about your childhood best friend (ie, a doll or toy), how that attachment impacted your childhood, how detaching from it may have caused you some pain, and how you dealt with that pain and grief.
THE COST OF A PINT
We humbly ask for your financial support for this community-based project. The cost of a “pint” (ie, each production we create) varies, but averages at least $10,000. With this play, we will be paying extra for musicians, technical experts, and a first-class playwright. As we awaken from our year-long hibernation, it is time to think once again about budgets and stipends. The work we do is employment for local theatre workers who have been financially impacted especially hard in the past year. Please send any donations you can. Here is a link to our PayPal.
Welcome our guest blogger
You probably remember Matthew Hager from our production of THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE, but you may not recognize him! Matthew played the lead role of Casey, the Elvis impersonator-turned-drag performer, aka Georgia McBride! Under all those outrageous wigs and costumes lies a dedicated and seasoned actor. We thought it would be fun to shine a light on one of our favorite theatre artists we have had the pleasure of working with. So this month, get to know Matthew and his thoughts on theatre post-pandemic.
Woo boy, y’all. This year has been a doozy! I sure do hope you’re well. And I mean that sincerely, not as one of those polite phrases you say to passing acquaintances when you’re actually thinking, “Like me, but don’t talk to me.” You may be asking yourself what that skinny boy from The Legend of Georgia McBride is doing writing on the Honest Pint newsletter. That’s a great question. You may even say, “I saw this guy in his tighty whiteys and lost all respect for him then, why should I read anything he writes?” And to that I’d say, “No one asked you, Dad!” (Awkward pause.) Moving on. Seeing as we’ve now won the war against infectious bats (or, depending on your point of view, lost the war against the government—where my Red Hats at!?), the prospect of reemergence is becoming a tantalizing reality. While I will once again have the burden of coming up with creative but plausible excuses for why I can’t attend your poetry readings (“No…this is my other niece’s graduation.”), I cannot wait for the return of in-person, capital T Theatre. And, undoubtedly, much like all of us genuinely fortunate enough to survive the COVID crisis, Theatre will come out looking different than it went in, with maybe a little more weight. If you’re anything like me—which I hope you aren’t—the great pause caused by COVID forced you into a time of assessing how you were (and weren’t) living your best life. And if you’re anything like me—which I hope you are—you have learned through COVID time ways to better structure your life to funnel your energy and efforts into actions, thoughts, and people that do support your wellness and values. My hope is that Theatre as a whole, and locally here in the RDU area, has gone through a similar existential reevaluation and will emerge with a clearer set of tools to serve our beautifully dynamic communities, who they actually are and where they’re actually going. While I think very few of us, if any, wish to continue in this exclusively virtual theatre world, here are five elements of digital theatre that I hope will continue as part of in-person theatre:
The chat box. What a wonderful gift! I loved watching a Zoom theatre show and having a shared experience with other audience members in the chat box. It solved the taboo problem of talking in the theatre (and the even worse shushing the talking in the theatre) and allowed for another level of connection to develop. Plus, as an artist, what a joy it is to go back and see your audience’s real-time responses to a show. A chat box may not be possible or right for every in-person show, but having a communal thread or displayed screen may be right for some. We’re too uptight in theatre anyway; let our audiences talk and make a little noise, even if it’s just the rat-a-tat-tat of their fingers.
Virtual rehearsals. Of course we can’t and shouldn’t always have virtual rehearsals for an in-person show, but I know I’ve been at in-person rehearsals in the past that could have just as well been conducted online. With the fact that artists are too often paid too little, a virtual rehearsal here and there with less demand on time and zero commuting costs may not be a bad thing for production teams to consider. Plus, the sessions can be recorded for actors to review or for companies to distribute for a behind-the-scenes looks (we’re talking Patreon gold here, people.)
Livestreaming. Now that several local theatre companies have figured out how cameras and the internet work, KEEP LIVESTREAMING! It expands a company’s potential audience, allows for folks in other parts of the country to participate in the viewing experience, and allows for higher-quality archival recordings that can be shown at a later date on different platforms. Plus, there will be many plays going forward with livestreaming in mind, so the streaming rights situation will be streamlined, and we should embrace the technology and how it makes our work more accessible.
Sustainable long shows. I love a long night out at the theatre. It feels like an event. However, I also am a wimp when it comes to tolerance of “gotta go pee” pain. Virtual theatre, with its mute buttons and pauses for tech resets, allows the audience to stay with a show for a long time while allowing for bio-breaks. How do we do this in person? Bring back one of my favorite play structures, the three-act play. There’s nothing like the comfort and thrill of a 45-minute opening act, then time for folks to pee, 45 more minutes with a cliff hanger, pee again, then thirty final minutes to bring that story to a close. Good enough for Oscar Wilde, good enough for me. Either that, or just let me pee in the aisle.
Digital Discussions. Ever since I moved to Raleigh, I’ve heard about how the theatre community should get together and talk about “this,” or gather and talk about “that.” The problem was, no one knew how to get a collective conversation going across the busy and over-extended diaspora that is the theatre community. During COVID, we have seen incredible discussions online about race, gender, accessibility, and arts funding. Also, countless members of our community have been interviewed on various platforms, allowing us to get to know folks we didn’t beforehand, or didn’t know well enough. These outreaches and challenges have increased the intimacy of our community, even as we have been physically distanced from each other, and these conversations must continue. We HAVE to keep asking, “Who are we not reaching? Who are we not including? And how can we do better?”
As the world reemerges, theatre has an opportunity. Physical distancing has isolated our need for in-person connection, an asset that this ancient art of theatre has maintained for millennia. People will soon leave their houses looking for exactly what theatre offers: human connection, shared experience, and stories that reflect ourselves. But if we are not prepared for that want, then we will miss out. Theatre is a living thing, and if we push off the necessity of incorporating more and more digital avenues and communications into our operations, then we will continue to be seen as an art form from a bygone era, increasingly novel and irrelevant. If you are a theatre person like me (and I have to assume you are if you’re still reading this) then you know how vital theatre is to a vibrant, accepting, progressive, and self-reflective community. We’ve just had a year to practice virtual methods of expanding our influence, and we’d be outright idiots not to carry along the things that worked as we return to a new normal. A good idea? Maybe, but don’t call me brilliant. As you know, I put my tighty whiteys on one over-stretched leg hole at a time, just like the next guy.
GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM…
A big thanks to Matthew for sharing his ideas with us.
We especially like his take on the digital discussions that have taken place over the course of the past year and we also want to see them continue. Let us know what you think; we’d love to hear what our community at large thinks about streaming theatrical productions and the rest of Matthew’s ideas.
You may not know that we made the artistic and financial decision to forgo virtual streaming productions this past year for a couple of reasons: First, a high quality is difficult to capture via Zoom and other platforms. Of course, nothing can compare to the thrill of a live theatrical performance, and we feel that streaming is not in our technical or artistic wheelhouse. It’s an entirely different medium than theatre and requires a skill set that neither one of us personally possesses. Second, we are hampered by the costs of streaming rights (up to $6,000 just for the licensing fee) and the stipends we would have to pay technical wizards to help us set up streaming. All of this would wipe out our reserved funds, and our limited audience reach would never allow us to recoup our costs. It just doesn’t make financial sense, and we have to be good stewards of the donations that keep our company running.
Theatre inaccessibility has been an issue far longer than the pandemic has been around and the ability to stream a show can help close that gap.
We are not sure how this will look for an Honest Pint show, but it could include a hybrid of live as well as digital options. Perhaps one performance per run is live streamed. This would allow access to people that are not ready to gather in large groups and people that are homebound. Perhaps these streams are priced lower than the live in person performances. Perhaps there is more connection between audience and performer via live streamed rehearsals (for Patrons) or virtual talkbacks.
Regardless of how it happens, we know that we will need help in making it a reality. This means we will be looking for people that have skills in video, audio and streaming platforms. If you are one of these amazing humans please let us know. If you know any of these amazing humans put them in touch with us.
With a new hope springing this month, we feel like the light at the end of the very long tunnel may be near. Who knows what will happen in the next several months, but there is a possibility we could return to in-person performances by the end of 2021. We like possibilities. After all, that’s the magic of theatre and why it is so breathtaking - anything can happen! Cross your fingers!
In the meantime, please stay safe and well. Get vaccinated, continue to wear your mask, stay socially distant whenever possible, and be kind. It’s been such a trying year for all of us, and you have no idea what burdens other people may be carrying. We miss you dearly.
DRINK DEEP! 🍺
— Susannah and David