In the Zoom Where It Happens
What San Diego Theater Looks Like in the Age of Social Distancing
Local theater companies are adapting their art
Dan Letchworth | Sep 1, 2020
"At the same time up in Solana Beach, North Coast Repertory Theatre was facing a similar dilemma with the Eric Pfeffinger comedy Human Error, when the lockdown stranded one of the five actors, Terrell Donnell Sledge, in Alabama. “I auditioned and submitted a tape,” he says, “but then didn’t get to meet anyone in person at all.”
The company decided to record the play in Zoom. Luckily, stage manager Aaron Rumley had video editing experience. “The trick was to make it visually interesting,” he says; “more fun than a standard Brady Bunch box.”
So instead of squares, director Jane Page had the idea to vignette the actors against a scenic backdrop. “I had these very vivid dreams about slating locations with postcards,” she says, “contextualizing like a matte on framed artwork.”
North Coast had two weeks each to rehearse, shoot, and edit. One difficult aspect was maintaining eye lines. “We have to know exactly how the actors are going to be framed in post-production to figure out which way they look,” Page says. Some moments called for looking “at” one another; other times they could simply face their camera, and it was clear through context whom they were speaking to.
The dedication everyone put into the project paid off. As a viewer, you stopped noticing the newness of the format after a while because you were invested in the characters and their story—just like with any good play."