|Shelter in place.|
What I am about the recount is something we did during the lockdown, and is no way meant to diminish the seriousness of that time, which psychological after-effects we will have to cope with the rest of our lives.
The day the shutdown was announced in the United States, three years ago this week, those of us who were not “essential workers” were left with a great deal of time on our hands. And creators of live performance were quick to devise all manner of “virtual” entertainments.
On March 14, 2020 I put out a call for people who would be interested to record themselves performing one of my short play scripts. I’d written over one hundred since the previous fall, I’d write another hundred before that summer.
The earliest submissions really bring back the shocking sensation of the start of quarantine. Outside of a circle of friends, we didn’t know what the insides of other people’s domiciles looked like. Soon we would know the interior of everyone’s home, even Stanley Tucci’s.
Packing about preparing for a flight, written just days before all flights were grounded in the United States. They has all their stuff laid out on the floor to pack, and the other voice in the scene is provided by someone over their phone. It’s eerie, to me a chilling reminder of that specific time.
Other early entries were playful, as adults treated that first week like an old fashioned snow day. It reminded me of the Blizzard of 1978 – we didn’t have school, but we couldn’t go anywhere, either. Laura and her partner knocked up a fort out of sheets and blankets in their living room for Worlds. Carrie, Hannah and Sam put on their PJ’s to present a sleepover for Butthole.
Then there were those who, through necessity, playfully used what they had on hand to perform two-person scenes. Amiee created Verses with the assistance of their dog, Buckley. Luke partnered with a pretzel for Advertisement, a now sorely-dated piece inspired by the Peloton/Aviation Gin ads. Do we remember those?
As the weeks and months of 2020 went on, creators got more sophisticated with their short play submissions, including animation, original music, and some truly professional cinematography. But these swiftly created videos from the first few days really put me back in that time, for better or for worse.
You can watch all seventy-five plays in the Short Play Project here.
"Peace" performed by Richard Stimac