BOHO Fall Arts 2020. full interview
(Q) How/why was the decision made to move forward with an on-line season? (excluding the obvious)
(A)There is a long-standing tradition in the theatre that states "The show must go on.” We find comfort in that notion. Shit happens and we find a way to carry on. In light of the current world health crisis, we have moved our productions and classes online because we believe our work and connection with our audience is more important than ever.
Theatre provides an outlet for escape and inspiration during times of uncertainty. The doors to our building may be closed but, as theatre artists and compassionate humans, our hearts are wide open. We still have stories to tell. Not only does it give artists a chance to create, it allows the community an opportunity to pause and be transported for a moment.
(Q) How was the season selected? Any specific reasons for specific shows?
(A) The process of selecting this season was much like other seasons with one notable exception.
We began looking at shows for 2020/21 in 2019, well before the shelter in place. Our play-reading committee searched for plays that fit our mission: 1) Plays that are current. Written within the past 6 years. 2) Plays that have never been produced in Sonoma County before. 3) Plays that are left leaning, edgy, thought-provoking for our adventurous audience. 4) Plays suited for our intimate 70 seat venue.
We read nearly 100 works that fit that criteria, discussed their merits and checked to see what royalties were available. Once the list was whittled down to 10 shows, we prepared to present scenes from these at our annual showcase. In this unique event, the audience chooses six plays we present in the upcoming season. The showcase is normally held in April, and this is when things got interesting.
The pandemic forced us to reevaluate and ultimately adjust how we would hold the season showcase and future productions. We postponed the showcase one month and held it online. We presented scenes from the final ten possible plays and allowed the audience to vote for their favorites in an online setting. Holding the Showcase online via Zoom gave us the experience and confidence that we could find ways continue to produce our work safely in a virtual environment.
The final selection of plays for the 2020/21 season have some amazing things in common. First, they are all written by female playwrights. Secondly, they all have themes that are relevant to this moment. Essentially, and I am simplifying, each play helps to identify broken systems and imagines new ways of being together. Our 2020/21 season is all about elevating the silenced: Women. Queer. Black. Indigenous. Disadvantaged. Differently-Abled. It has become obvious that old systems no longer work and have created disconnection and separation instead of depth and unity. Experiencing this reality can be frustrating and heartbreaking (SWEAT) and at times hysterical and laugh out loud funny (THANKSGIVING PLAY). Reflecting on our past experiences can provide us fresh perspectives (HINDSIGHT 2021 NEW PLAY FESTIVAL). There always exists an option to break from harmful patterns of behavior (THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX), to explore unconventional options (HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE) and to—perhaps—arrive at something truly original (DANCE NATION).
(Q) What have you had to do to adapt to the current restrictions?
(A) Our whole world has been turned upside down. Each of us are attempting to adapt. Left Edge is very fortunate for the support we have received during this time, including a few months of rent forgiveness from the Luther Burbank Center, generous donations from subscribers and patrons, PPP loans to pay staff, and grants from the Sonoma County Community Foundation & Creative Sonoma. All of these funding streams provided us the time and resources to create a new business model and invest in remote equipment and infrastructure. Now our creative teams can continue working together remotely to bring our unique brand of entertainment to our audiences. To prepare for a scenario where working together in a shared physical space is safe once again, we invested in an improved air filtration system, handless sanitizer stations and other PPE equipment. We also outfitted our theatre space with faster internet and TV studio equipment for producing live streaming versions of our productions.
Another change for the foreseeable future, is that we have adjusted our normal 4-week run of live, in-person performances to a 2-week run of live performances over Zoom and a 2-week run of recorded performances streaming over Vimeo. We also lowered our general ticket price for live shows from $30 to $25 and waived fees. Thursdays and recorded streaming shows are now just $15.
With the support of our community, our audience and our artists, we are taking this moment to re-define what theatre can be. We are very grateful to able to continue our mission in new ways. While there is currently no way to replace the connection with a live audience in a shared space, we invite the community to connect with us virtually until we can be together again.
(Q) Any other comments or statements you wish to make?
(A) Since the season showcase, and given the continuing health order restrictions, we did have to make some changes to our line-up. Some of the plays in our 2020/21 season were just not suited for a virtual experience and so we swapped the order of a few shows. Namely we moved DANCE NATION to the end of the season, postponed FUN HOME and put a 10-minute play festival in that time-slot. Complete details of the new play festival (working title HINDSIGHT 2021) are still being worked out, but we imagine a national call for short new plays which are written about current events and for production over Zoom. The 10 finalist plays will be produced online, published in a collection and recorded for on-demand streaming. Playwrights will receive royalties and a percentage of streaming sales. The festival’s purpose is to support emerging and established playwrights and theatre artists during the pandemic, as there is little or no work for these artists at this time. It is also meant to engage audiences with contemporary themed plays and connect with them in a new virtual theatre experience.