Local community theaters now seem well-acquainted with the benefits and challenges of Zoom as a presenting platform. The Empty Space decided to make the best use of its talent for its latest production, "The Zoom Where It Happens," which will be performed this weekend.
Shelbe McClain, one of the directors involved in the production, said "Zoom" came about when theater members suggested making it a group effort, calling in multiple directors, tapping local playwrights for new works and bringing it all together, from auditions to performance, via the video conferencing platform.
"I could not be happier to work alongside such a talented group of artists who are trying their best to create and share art with our community during such difficult times," McClain wrote in an email.
"We are lucky to have this for now, but we know of so many who are deeply missing the Bakersfield theatre community and cannot wait to get back on the stage. So not only are we happy to have something to work on but we are also aiming to bring in donations to keep the doors open since theatres cannot operate with business as usual."
Each play in the production explores the familiar elements of virtual meetings and add a bit more. In the case of the fantasy pieces, McClain said they employed some familiar tricks to bring them to life.
"We used sets, makeup, sound design, and more to transport the viewer to a different reality, no two pieces are the same," she wrote. "No matter what, Zoom presents its own challenges when trying to use it for live theatre but it has been useful to work with pieces that were specifically written for Zoom."
“Loving Fae," about a meeting of fairy folk on Zoom to discuss their plans, is written by Violet Ray and directed by McClain. It stars Victoria Olmos, Maya Blackstone, Jovani Morales and Madison Shuck
What happens when the four horsemen of the apocalypse have to meet virtually? Find out in "Zoom of Doom," featuring a technician and the horsepeople played by Yasmin Marcelo, Holly Rockwood, Julia Stanley, Salvador Vidaurri and Cameron Kovac. The play, written by Mark A. Fisher, is directed by Emma Jordan Scott.
Written by Jason Rupert's play "Asylum" is the least fantastical, focusing on a doctor working with his patients in a group rehabilitation session. Directed by Tray Jordan, who also appears in the show, it features Eunice Hartsock, Kara McDonald, Faith Hall, Emerson Herzog, Juvenal Ramirez and Deva Wiloth.
Performers Sheila McClure, Cristina Goyeneche, Paul Sosa and Hester Wagner all turn to an unconventional dispenser of guidance in "Magic Mirror," written by Mendy McMasters and directed by Bethany Lehammer.
McMasters said her play is about people in transition, wondering if they should just wish for aid or actually help themselves.
“We all need a little magic in our lives right now," she wrote. "It is the easier choice. To make a wish and let someone or something fulfill it. The harder choice is for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work."
Even though this is not an ideal way to perform, adapting as necessary has brought out the best in the community, McClain said.
"Moving theatre to a virtual setting has hindered us in some ways but it has also helped us in others. Not only are we able to perform for our beloved local community but now we can open our virtual doors to people from all over."
McClain said that expanding world includes out-of-town cast and crew that can take part as well as viewers from all over the country.
The power of art and the enduring spirit of those who create it cannot be diminished, the director said.
"I would like people to take away from this production is that even through our darkest days, art will prevail," she wrote. "As long as there are people who inhabit this earth, there will be artists who will find the beauty in it."