1. Art

Quarantine Creativity Transforms A London-Based Theater Cooperative Into A Global Collaboration

Spinning as if she were in a zero-gravity environment, Miriam, performed by London-based actor Jacqueline Berces, transported a global Zoom audience to a new dimension.

“The whole point of sending you up there is so that your keen sense of poetry would, given the perspective of low Earth orbit, allow you to more fully appreciate life down here on behalf of… well, the species,” scolded a blank screen. “You’re telling me that you’re looking down at the pale blue dot and thinking, ‘meh?’”

The word “CONTROL” on the ominous screen to the left of Berces was a last-minute improvisation after English actor Verena Punz fell ill and was unable to perform on the livestream. The English director, Polly Nayler, nimbly voice recorded the role created by American playwright and writer Michael Maiello

Had there been no mention of this change, the viewers wouldn’t have suspected it was meant to be a two-person show. It seemed intentional that Maiello’s short play, The First Poet in Space, would use a blank screen in a primary role to convey the collective despair of living in a pandemic. Relying on Zoom for working, learning, and socializing has become ubiquitous. 

If not poets, surely we all feel like we might be lost in space, or at least trapped in an alternative reality.

The shutdown of the global art world has left us all dizzy and perhaps eager to board a spacecraft on a quest for live cultural entertainment.

The UnDisposables had plans to showcase a new writing night called Scratching the Surface in April, at The Space, a perfuming arts venue in a converted mid-19th century Neo-Romanesque church on the bottom of the Isle of Dogs, a vast peninsula bounded on three sides by an immense meander in the River Thames in East London.

The production “of course had to be canceled due to lockdown, but we were eager to still find some creativity in lockdown,” said actor and playwright Esther Joy Mackay, founder and artistic director of the arts and theater collective. “So I’d say we weren’t so much inspired by lockdown, but inspired in spite of it.”

Scratching the Servers: Independence went live on July 4, with a worldwide audience viewing ten short plays, including Keeping Afloat, written Mackay, directed by James Easey, and performed by her and her father, David Mackay. Featuring actors, writers, and directors from at least four counties (England, the United States, New Zealand, and Ireland), Zoom offered an ideal format. 

“We began working on the concept for this show in April (when our live performance was due to be) but it wasn’t until May that we picked the date. We were choosing between the 4th July and the 27th June, and the fact that 4th July was American Independence Day stood out to us as an opportunity to centre this performance on the universal theme of independence, a theme which feels even more relevant at a time when we are all locked away from each other,” said Mackay.

Visual and performing artists have discovered new ways to create and innovate, forever transforming how we consume art. Across genres and geographies, artists have emerged from isolation to embrace enabling technology and expose their work to broader audiences.

“I’d like to think there will be a positive change. This performance gave us a fantastic opportunity to turn the London-based UnDisposables into an international collective,” said Mackay. “We are still craving to have our theatre’s re-open, but for me, Scratching the Servers: Independence proved that the spirit of theatre is alive outside of the venues, meaning there is a whole world of unexplored opportunities quite literally at our fingertips.”

The groundbreaking livestream included a diverse array of talent and artistic expression:

Walking on Eggshells

Written and directed by Kat Tinnirello-Savvas (London, England)

April – Hannah Henderson (England)

Julia – Sophie Rivers (London, England)

Face Off

Written by Abhi Arumbakkam (England)

Directed by Aida Rock

Nisha – Aarushi Ganju (England)

Relationship Furlough

Written by by Emma Dawson (England)

Directed by Lauren Tranter (England)

Lise – Helen Rose Hampton (England)

Ingrid – Stephanie Pezolano

Confessions of a Third Place Potato-Peeling Contest Champion

Written by Matthew Weaver (United States)

Directed by Polly Nayler (Margate, England)

Andi – Grace Hussey-Burd (High Wycombe, England)

Boot’s Vacation

Written by Rex McGregor (New Zealand)

Directed by Amy Tickner (England)

Boot – Jake Saunders (London, England)

I’ve Got a Place for That Wand

Written by Laura Shoebottom (England)

Directed by Amy Tickner (England)

Aurora – Lucia Young (England)

Sparing Change

Written by Steven Lancefield (England)

Directed by Lauren Tranter (England)

Molly – Laura Hanna

Jack – Oz Direncay

Work Husband

Written by Donna Latham (America)

Directed by James Easey (London, England)

Candace – Emma Zadow (England)

Clark – Stuart Murray (Ireland)

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