May 30, 2020
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Never letting moss grow on its doorstep, Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa is determined to keep live theatre truly alive during these uncertain times. Shutting down their 2019-2020 season mid-show (closing the surefire hitThe Flick after opening), LET immediately began working on ways to offer theatrical entertainment to its patrons, exploring online platforms and techniques.
Their website asserts the ongoing mission to bring contemporary works to Sonoma County, adding: “There is a long-standing theatre tradition that states, ‘THE SHOW MUST GO ON.’ In light of the current world health crisis, we have moved all our shows, classes and meetings online. Theatre has always provided an outlet for escape and inspiration during times of uncertainty. The doors to our building may be closed but our hearts are bursting open. We have stories to share. So it is with great pride that we introduce a new way of engaging, entertaining and connecting with you.”
Several online offerings have already aired, with more scheduled for June and beyond. Artistic director Argo Thompson says there has been a technical learning curve with using Zoom, but each show has improved on the delivery of a theatrical product in a medium meant for webinars and meetings. It’s a two-dimensional medium, so trying to develop depth and spatial relationships is challenging. Thompson notes, “We’re happy with the results so far and the feedback we’ve been getting from our audience. We invested in new cameras, lighting and audio equipment, including green screens, and found that for now at least Zoom is the best platform for offering audiences a way to experience a show ‘live’.”
It’s not “theatre,” and it’s not “television,” but a new hybrid born from the necessity for keeping actors, crew, and viewers safe in their own homes. Thompson and his team, including technical director April George, production director Vicky Martinez, associate artistic director Paige Picard and a host of other theatre artists, continue working to create something worthy of their reputation for excellent production values.
“The tech issues are constantly evolving — for example, the early experience we had with our online reprise of A Steady Rain was educational. We lost some of the audience during the performance on that one due to tech issues. But with our Season Showcase, we mastered those issues, actors rehearsed longer using this new platform, and audience feedback was positive — more people joined in, no one left. So we feel we’re on to something, and able to provide a show that’s entertaining and compelling and theatrical at a level of quality viewers have come to expect when looking at a screen.”
Next up is this season’s closer, Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl, challenging since it takes place during a retreat where participants take a vow of silence. But director Thompson is excited for new things they’re doing to make it work, and is confident audiences will enjoy the outcome. In a new twist, the performances will be live on Zoom for two weeks, June 5 - 14, then will be video streamed for two more weeks, through June 28.
The recent Season Showcase finalized the 2020-2021 season, which includes LET’s first musical, Pulitzer and Tony winners, and regional premieres. Thompson hopes there will be some in-person performance aspect by September, but is prepared for all possibilities. The season includes: Sweat by Lynn Nottage; The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa Fasthorse; Fun Home, music by Jeanine Tesori and book by Lisa Kron; The Mystery of Love and Sex by Bathsheba Doran; How to Transcend a Happy Marriage by Sarah Ruhl; and Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Thompson swears it’s a coincidence that all the plays this season are by female playwrights.
With such energy and talent in our area, there’s no reason to lament the loss of your theatre-going habits — tune in to what’s on tap at Left Edge Theatre and join the new Zoom-ed opportunities. And hopefully we’ll all be able to meet again in an actual theatre space come this Fall… Fingers crossed!
50 Mark West Springs Rd.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Photos by vrs.
Captions for provided photos:
Please support our sponsors:
LOCAL GUIDE to Cannabis Dispensaries and Delivery Services, Sonoma County & Beyond.All dispensaries have verified their information.