By Alyssa Smith, Staff Writer—
Halloween@Home made its virtual debut this past Halloween, bringing live and remote theater, horror movies and costume contests to the public.
The 24 hour live stream-a-thon, Halloween@Home was hosted by Scenic City Shakespeare, a recently established 501c3 non-profit, whose mission it is to engage and inspire through theater.
Opening in September of 2019, the organization switched to fully #RemoteTheatre productions in March.
Their innovative solution to the necessary restrictions on physical contact, #RemoteTheatre is the way Scenic City Shakespeare is blending new and traditional techniques to put actors in their homes together on a virtual stage.
The idea for the stream-a-thon was conceived earlier in the year while drawing inspiration from the rare occurrence of a blue moon on Halloween.
“We wanted to create an event that would be safe while incorporating familiar aspects of a fundraiser event such as door prizes and a costume contest,” Founder and Artistic Director, Ryan Laskowski said.
While COVID-19 initially had its setbacks, Scenic City Shakespeare has made numerous connections and artistic partnerships this year that would not have happened otherwise.
“COVID has forced us to innovate in ways that were totally unheard of 400 years ago when Shakespeare himself also lived in an age of pandemic,” Laskowski said.
Their first #RemoteTheatre production, “Pyramus and Thisby,” was performed live via Zoom with actors from four different states, overlaying scenery onto the actors’ individual windows.
With another remote production, “Malvolio, A Sportful Malice” for the Stage on Screen Theatre Festival, they utilized green screens and special software to create the illusion of the actors together in a virtual world.
For Halloween@Home, Scenic City Shakespeare premiered Ian Doescher’s adaptation of Frankenstein as a #RemoteReading. Richard III was also read, with the recording available on YouTube.
The next project in the works for Scenic City Shakespeare is a cross discipline art installation called #BardWalk. This production will have actors go out into the world to record scenes, songs and dances, leaving behind markers with QR codes for people to scan and view. These codes will be placed along various routes throughout Chattanooga.
While COVID-19 has impacted theater productions worldwide, these organizations are constantly coming up with innovative ideas to keep performance alive.
“It is the small companies in towns around the country keeping theatre alive now—it always has been,” Laskowski said. “Theatre has survived pandemic before, it will again.”