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Virtual theater curbs isolation for Middletown performer

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Middletown Transcript

While under stay-at-home orders, a group of New Castle County community theater performers found a way to continue working from home.

Alongside 13 other cast and crew members, Gail Wagner of Middletown took part in an original online drama “Life in a Glass Jar,” rehearsed and filmed using Zoom.

People from Reedy Point Players, Chapel Street Players in Newark, Wilmington Drama League and The Brandywiners in Wilmington were involved in the production.

Wagner, who has been involved in live theater for 20 years, said it is murder mystery. It takes place during a corporate business meeting over Zoom.

“It’s as if the coronavirus went even further and people weren't even allowed to leave their houses or even go outside. Martial law has been declared,” she said.

The Middletown resident said not having physical contact with anyone other than those she lives with has been hard, but the online theater helped her feel less isolated.

She said the biggest challenges of performing remotely was not having in-person contact with the cast and seeing her own facial expressions as she acted.

“On a stage, you can get that kind of chemistry going between two people. You couldn’t get all of that, but you could almost get it,” she said. “The other thing that was difficult was as you're doing your lines, you could see your face. You're watching yourself as everyone else is reacting to it, so sometimes that could be different.”

Playwright and director Bill Potter from Reedy Point Players in Delaware City wrote the play with help from the cast. Wagner is from the same theater company.

Potter said writing it was the hardest part of the production.

“When I started, I just had this vague notion of what I wanted to accomplish, I didn’t have a [full] script,” he said. “The actors were a lot better than my writing.”

Production took about six weeks, including writing and rewrites.

Potter said directing over Zoom was the easiest part, but sometimes there were technical adjustments needed.

“The big thing was finding a time when the platform wasn’t overwhelmed so the voice matched the moving of the mouth,” he said.

The play was filmed in one take.

“It doesn’t have angle cuts. It's more theatrical,” Wagner said. “You are seeing it as if it is happening right in front of you.”

Wagner, who played Detective Stuart, said her son Jacob Hunter helped her put up a green screen to make it look like she was at a police station.

“Everyone else is set up in their homes, but I am supposed to be a police officer, so I didn’t think my house would look like a police station,” she said.

Potter said there will be a sequel that will also be performed virtually.

The one-hour drama is on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxHDpsPbkyA.