Zoom, a video conferencing platform for business meetings and webinars, is being leveraged to create unique theater experiences for audiences stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Juggerknot Theatre Co., producers of the critically-acclaimed, immersive theater experience “Miami Motel Stories,” has partnered with New York-based PopUp Theatrics for “Long Distance Affair,” May 23 – 30.
Up to five audience members at a time will enter a Zoom video conference room for a 10-minute experience with an actor based in London, Madrid, Miami, New York City, Paris or Singapore. Audiences can visit one, three or all six cities in one night or over the run of the production.
“Long Distance Affair” engages the audience, as opposed to a vignette that the audience members merely sit back and watch, explained producer Tamilla Woodard, co-founder of PopUP Theatrics.
“This is not a comfortable voyeurism that virtual theater can often be. You become part of the narrative,” said Woodard.
“One can observe the world from a balcony in New York, fall in love in London, party in Paris…in ‘Long Distance Affair’, distance is no barrier to connection,” added Ana Margineanu, co-founder of PopUP Theatrics and director of “Miami Motel Stories: North Beach” last season. “From the intimacy of your home, in real-time, 18 theater artists from six cities around the world have come together to create this one-of-a-kind virtual adventure.”
In a Zoom interview from Romania, Margineanu said the concept was actually first tested a decade ago, but in a one-on-one setting with audiences coming to a single location in New York City, where they engaged on individual computers with the internationally-based actors. They then moved from computer to computer to travel the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic and rise of video conferencing technology revolutionized the concept by allowed both audiences and actors to participate from the safety of their own homes.
“Now with social distancing, we were flooded with emails…Let’s do this again. This is the time! We knew we needed to step up, so we partnered with Juggerknot,” Margineanu said. “The difference between watching a movie on Netflix and going to this performance is you’re interacting. Your reactions influence the actors and their reactions influence you.”
Margineanu acknowledged that this type of production comes with unique technical challenges not found in a theater building: “All the pieces are in place and they’re pretty cool, if I can say. We’re working on technology and mastering the smooth experience getting 18 people into a virtual room at the same time.”
Juggerknot’s Tanya Bravo feels the unpredictability of the experience is what sets “Long Distance Affair” apart from other forms of theater.
“What will be the result when you and a perfect stranger meet with only a computer screen between you? Join us and make possible an impossible trip,” Bravo said.
Juggerknot Theatre Co. and PopUp Theatrics will present “Long Distance Affair” May 23 – 30 between 7 and 9 p.m. EDT. Ticket packages range from $11 - 15 for one show to $30 – 40 for three. For tickets and more information, go too LongDistanceAffair.info.