Hello theatre fans! Boy, have I missed having theatrical events in the county to share with you. They have been too few and far between. But, things are looking up. The theatre company I belong to will be presenting A Virtual Christmas Carol and that is the topic of this month’s column. And, the book club over at Minnie Cannon Elementary has been working on a radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I hope to bring you more information about that in my January column. In the meantime, should you hear of any group or individual in the county that is finding a way to present creative endeavors, I urge you to give them my email address so that I may shine a spotlight on their productions right here in this column. I can be reached at StageStruq@mchsi.com
I am happy to report that the Lake County Theatre Company (LCTC) has been hard at work on their first production since theaters began to shutter back in April. I didn’t have to do any research for my column this month since I have had a hand in this production as a board member, a member of the Play Selection Committee, and as one of the Co-Director/Co-Producers. Also, my son plays Tiny Tim and Young Scrooge if you want the full disclosure.
By October we as a company realized that if COVID was going to keep audiences from going to the theatre, then we needed to bring theatre to the audience. The Play Selection Committee decided on a familiar story with a twist. The show is aptly titled A Virtual Christmas Carol. It’s the same story you know and love about tight fisted mean ol’ Scrooge and his interactions with the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future. Only in this version, the tale is told through a series of Zoom Calls.
The pace at which this show came together is pretty unheard of. The show was selected on September 24th. Four days later the first Production meeting was held. And, by October 7th the show was cast. That is ridiculously quick for a show. Typically, a company will choose its season well in advance. They’ll secure the rights to the shows, select production team members, and start meeting months in advance to discuss design and other logistical and creative elements. Time was a luxury we as a company just didn’t have if we were going to deliver a Christmas show.
The pace was not the only atypical aspect of this production. The production team is rather unusual, as well. We decided to go with 3 Co-Director/Co-Producers. The thinking behind this rather unusual move is that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon and that it would be beneficial to have directors experienced in producing shows in the new medium of Zoom going forward. And, what better way to get that experience, than by working on a Zoom production.
This could have resulted in a great deal of confusion for all involved, including the actors, but our team found out early on that we were all on the same page direction wise. Larry Richardson took the lead at auditions and had Michele Chapman and myself give feedback and direction first (we are the other two Co-Director/Co-Producers). He found himself repeatedly saying, “Okay, I’m gonna cross that off my notes, since we’ve already mentioned it.” That phenomenon of being completely on the same page has carried over to the rehearsals, as well.
Along the way, the team expanded into 4 Co-Directors. Marie Schrader who was originally slated as the Stage Manager/Editor found herself slipping into giving technical direction and taking over some production responsibilities, as well.
Having 4 sets of eyes has worked out well for this fast tracked production. Our team has been exchanging daily text messages at a furious pace and racing around the lake during the day to deliver green screens, props, and other items in time for the evening rehearsals. Sometimes, we don’t make it back home in time (hey, we have day jobs), but there are 3 other sets of eyes able to run the rehearsals without having to delay.
The virtual aspect of this show has made for some unusual challenges for cast and crew. The biggest challenge has been technical issues. One night, someone’s settings will be perfect. The green screen and virtual backgrounds will look crystal clear. The following night, as we prepare to record tape, things suddenly go wonky and the actor whose equipment has been working fine, suddenly needs to readjust things.
The decision to record the show versus going live was made early on. We knew we had a lot to learn and decided we could deliver a cleaner show with less technical difficulties if our first foray into this new medium was recorded. That decision proved to be the right one. We recently watched another theatre company’s production as a frame of reference. Their show was live and they had to restart their show and had a few delay issues along the way. We also discovered during rehearsals that the internet in our county is at times, completely unreliable.
Our cast and crew have been learning a lot along the way, but a couple of technical issues have required that in some instances we use the takes that are not technically flawed over the takes that are the best dramatically. The recent PSPS didn’t help, either. The audience will still get a great show, but we are definitely learning a lot and will use that knowledge going forward in this new medium.
If you’ve seen any LCTC productions in the past you will recognize some familiar faces. However, due to the fact that rehearsals are virtual, we have some actors from Washington state and San Francisco in this cast that otherwise we’d never have been able to work with and that’s been kinda fun for us.
The show runs December 18, 19, 20, and 24 (Christmas Eve) at 7:30pm, but you’ll want to tune in at 7:00 to see the pre-show where you can watch interviews of the cast and crew. We’ve also got a virtual program on our website with photos of the actors and their bios. You can even check out the website ahead of time for food and beverage recipes to serve your family while you watch the show to make a night of it.
If you would like to see this production from the comfort of your own home, please go to LCTC.us to purchase tickets. You only need one ticket per household. The link to the YouTube Channel where the performance will occur will be emailed to you the day before. Over all, in my heavily biased opinion, this show will keep the whole family entertained and at $5 for the entire household you really can’t go wrong.