This weekend, Theatre Fairfield premiered its very first production of the season. The production, entitled “Love and Imagination,” is a series of five short, comedic plays written by David Ives and six monologues by Barrie Cole, all performed completely over Zoom.
“Love and Imagination,” directed by Jan Mason, is a wonderfully wild ride from start to finish. Each monologue focuses on a day-to-day topic, with a few actually discussing COVID-19 and its effects on the contemporary psyche. The short plays ranged from relatively conventional, like “Sure Thing” which is about two people whose discussion restarts at the ring of a bell, to the more abstract, like “Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread” which is a parody of the musical style of famed contemporary composer, Philip Glass, and his eccentrically written operas.
Tracy Ferguson ‘22 played Betty in “Sure Thing,” second woman in “Philip Glass” and performed the monologue “Reverse Gossip” in “Love and Imagination,” and felt honored to be part of the cast. However, performing over Zoom came with its own challenges.
“Honestly, the hardest part about it was having to act by myself, like figuring out how to tell a story when it was just me talking to my computer,” Ferguson said. “I’m very used to the kind of community and shared energy that live theatre provides but, you know, you get used to it. You figure it out, you work around it, and I think we all manage to find good ways to make the best of the situation.”
Kiersten Bjork ‘21 played the role of loudspeaker voice in “English Made Simple,” first woman in “Philip Glass,” May in “Time Flies” and performed the monologue “Novel Iris.” She related to Ferguson’s performance struggles.
“Rehearsals on Zoom were definitely different from what I was used to,” she said. “On a more technical side, we were much more conscious of taking frequent breaks to avoid ‘Zoom fatigue,’ and then there was also the fact that, like the performances, we were rehearsing in a room by ourselves,” Bjork shared.
“There was no other physical body to act off of, which is something that many of us were more dependent on than we had originally realized, and so it was a process of learning how to base our reactions more off of vocal inflection as opposed to facial expressions and body language,” Bjork continued.
Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco Ph.D., professor of theatre at Fairfield and producer of “Love and Imagination,” empathized with Ferguson and Bjork’s struggles throughout the performance.
“This was hard. This was probably the hardest production I’ve ever done and I think, (and I’ve been in theatre for a very long time), this was a bear,” she said.
Ferguson felt that each of the plays had their own unique character, but “Philip Glass” really struck a chord with her.
“It’s a weird play,” she said. “It’s fun now, but it took a lot of work…We ran into several challenges throughout the process, mainly being that we can’t all sing in unison on Zoom, so we had to record all of the music ahead of time, and then pipe it in over the sound system within Zoom and lip sync from there.”
Along with “Philip Glass,” Bjork performed in another, more abstract, play called “Time Flies,” which features a pair of mayflies who have just met in a sort of meet-cute. As the play progresses, the flies end up having sex on screen, all narrated by the iconic David Attenborough, played by Park Lytle ‘21.
‘“Time Flies’ was fun, but also required some thinking outside of the box,” said Bjork. “Handing off a prop suddenly required so much more focus and alignment than it would on stage, as did entering and exiting. I was in a rather small room, so when I ran out of the frame on one side during the ‘the frogs are coming!’ bit in ‘Time Flies,’ I had plenty of space, but on the other side I had to flatten myself against a wall in order to keep my bug wings from being seen on the screen.”
However, despite all of the challenges faced by Theatre Fairfield for “Love and Imagination,” the show went off without a hitch and provided a testament to the fact that art can be found anywhere, even on Zoom.
“I’m very proud,” said LoMonaco. “I hope everybody’s proud of the work because it’s really a feat. It was really a feat to do it.”
Theatre Fairfield is holding auditions for its next production, “Director’s Cut,” which is a series of five one-act plays directed by students. Auditions will also be held for the annual independent project, which is “Woman and Scarecrow” this year. These auditions will be on Wednesday, Oct. 28. For more information, www.theatre-fairfield.org.