Lockdown Theatre: Surprising Lessons in Collaboration

Entering this second half of Destination Theatre, I was very hesitant to engage with digital theatre.  Up until this course, my only experiences with virtual theatre had included recordings of previously performed shows and script readings over Zoom; while both of these formats have their benefits, as a stage manager by trade and a musical fanatic, I tend to watch shows for their big-budget technical design.  Given this prejudice, I was expecting the lockdown-adapted (and thus recorded from home) YouTube production of Athena Stevens’ Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels to resemble a shabbily-produced student virtual show, with dirty sheets hung up as backdrops and dialogue not actually lining up with the video.  However, from the very first episode, I found this show to be incredibly nuanced and intricately put together.  

Cover art for Athena Stevens’ Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels YouTube premiere.

            Produced and recorded entirely from within each of the actor’s homes, this show had extremely limited access to lighting and set resources.  Rather than a typical process of buying or borrowing set and props from other theatres or individuals, these scenes were put together using only what was already within each home.  This could not be more opposite from my experiences with set design, which often involved a director and myself sitting in a blank rehearsal room dreaming up a list of furniture or structures we would build or buy to dress up the stage as we liked.  Upon further reflection, I do not believe I have ever witnessed an actor giving input into set design.  In the live Press Night Q&A streamed on YouTube, Anna Reid (the Designer) reflects on the creativity required to create a realistic, aesthetic and thematically meaningful set using only the actors’ home and belongings. Allowing for this opportunity of actor involvement in set design is actually quite an important shift, especially in a show such as Late Night Staring that takes place within the characters’ respective homes. 

In the same Press Night event, Evelyn Lockley describes how analyzing her home for recording actually elicited feelings of insecurity during the rehearsal process very similar to that experienced by her character, 1, in this production. In Episode 19, 1 discusses the embarrassment and turmoil following her recent romantic struggles while angrily cleaning her toilet; the symmetry of her character exposing her feelings while Lockley herself exposes her bathroom (from an angle I certainly would not allow in my own home) is really intriguing. This collaborative approach to set design thus has positive influences on both the production value of the show as well as character development!

Evelyn Lockley in Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels (Episode 19: F king Fairytales).

Due to the complex involvement of the actors at every step of the design process and the thought given to every little element of the (many) different scenes and settings, this show has completely changed how I will approach creating and seeing theatre productions in the future.  In a post-Covid world, the framework provided by Late Night Staring regarding how to produce theatre from home and with a smaller budget will hopefully lead to the staging of previously unheard voices and stories in a more accessible way.

Press Night Q&A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzKl1E8aI8U&t=1685s
Finborough Theatre’s Late Night Staring at High Res Pixels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJsEylgsJCQ&list=PLtipa63U6G79XsOSPqR2V2yw2KBnOe-Ub

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s