BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – Staged play readings in real life are fairly bare bones. Actors act with scripts in hand in front of an audience in the same locale. Costumes optional. No backdrops. Maybe a few props.
Monday night, the professional Door Shakespeare presented its first play reading in a new world created by the coronavirus COVID-19:
There was no stage. Actors with scripts out of sight acted in front of individual computer cameras in mostly different locations to an audience located in California, Texas and New York and other points – mostly Northeastern Wisconsin.
Afterward, there was a talkback from a possible 49 locations – primarily homes.
Overall, the event had a homey feel.
The play was almost the sideshow to watching professionals speed-learning the technical world of a Zoom meeting/play reading/performance.
The play is tongue-in-cheek, the rarely performed “Shakespeare’s Legacy” by J.M. Barrie.
The guy who created Peter Pan (Barrie) was out for fun in this piece from 1916.
The joke is William Shakespeare was Scottish. That’s according to the frivolous, Scottish born wife of a milquetoasty English-born fellow.
Mrs. Banfry is related to Shakespeare. So she says.
Brushing up on Shakespeare history, all according to Mrs. Banfry: Anne Hathaway was willed Shakespeare’s second-best bed. Shakespeare’s best bed went back to Shakespeare’s homeland. The mattress was stuffed with scripts. Some were never performed. One was “Hello, Bacon” – a joke on claims that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare plays. And Shakespeare left an autobiography – eventually eaten by vermin.
Mrs. Banfry (audience in tow) also somehow drops in on a conversation in a prison between A Scottish Queen (Mary) and An English Queen (Elizabeth) in which Mary gets Elizabeth’s goat.
Framing this is the byplay of the Banfrys, which is early 20th century quaint/saucy. Mrs. Banfry has a way of leaving her husband wondering about his place in the history of her heart, over and over.
Nuts and bolts from the evening:
Hosting the computercast (is that a new word?) and directing the play was Michael Stebbins, producing director of Door Shakespeare. He guided things from his home in Shorewood, noting that his cat, Magnolia, was present.
“It’s a whole new world,” he said early on, referring to the learning curve of this venture.
Performing in the same room – as Mr. and Mrs. Banfry – were Jarrod Langwinski and Rayne Kleinhofen. Through a bit of technical visual trickery, the Banfrys were seen in a middle-class living room with period furnishings – when the true backdrop was not that. (In TV, it’s chroma key, where meteorologists do their thing in front of a green wall while maps and radar and temperatures and such appear behind them). The effect with the Banfrys placed them in a time past.
Performing in different locations – but with exactly the same scene behind them, a 16th-century prison wall – were Isabelle Kralj as the Scottish-accented Mary and Amy Ensign as Elizabeth.
For a play reading, this was more than a play reading because of the virtual add-ins – and the viewing “crowd” being from widespread places.
The talkback session included the usual after-performance congratulations and one unique expression of wonder about the viewing-from-home experience. The coronavirus has forced a new world, sometimes a brave new world as theater companies attempt to keep on keepin’ on.
Creative: Playwright – J.M. Barrie; director – Michael Stebbins
Mrs. Banfry – Rayne Kleinhofen
Mr. Banfry – Jarrod Langwinski
An English Queen – Amy Ensign
A Scottish Queen – Isabelle Kralj
Running time: 29 minutes
Ahead is a virtual performance of Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors,” to be shown starting in late October. Rehearsals for the five actors playing all the parts are to start today, Tuesday, Oct. 13, Michael Stebbins said.
More virtual projects lie ahead this year.
Normally, Door Shakespeare performs outdoors in summer. This year’s live schedule was shot down. The person expressing wonder envisioned Door Shakespeare presenting virtual programming in winter in coming seasons. It seems that seed is being planted.