Reno Little Theater will broadcast a theater festival on YouTube Live this Sunday
This weekend, May 2-3, Reno Little Theater is conducting business as usual, but without the stage, the lights, the curtains—without the theater whatsoever. They’re going to host and present a 24-hour play festival completely virtually, bringing fresh performances to the video streaming devices of audience members in Reno and beyond.
They will also be live-streaming the writing, the casting, the auditioning, the directing and the rehearsing. The event is a peek into the entire creative process of theater production from start to finish, delivered digitally and driven by the directive that Nevadans stay-at-home.
“Basically, what happens is we get five or six playwrights, five or six directors, and a bunch of actors,” said Meliessa Taylor, executive director of Reno little Theater. “At 6pm on Saturday, May 2 the playwrights are given a topic that they have to write about, as well as a line they have to include [in the script] and a prop they need to use.”
After each new 10-minute play is written, the directors and casts will rehearse and memorize the shows using video conferencing platforms. They’ll perform the plays on YouTube Live starting at 6pm on Sunday May 3.
“Because we are currently shut down, we’ve been looking for different projects that we could do online to continue to support the theater community and our audiences,” said Taylor.
She said the theater produced a similar 24-hour play festival last December, coordinated by Erich Goldstein, a writer, actor and director. That one was, of course, in-person and performed in front of a live audience at Reno Little Theater.
Taylor admits that moving this format to a virtual platform is a technical and logistical challenge.
Goldstein said that last time, the playwrights were given their prompt, including the line and the prop they must include, then they went off into secluded areas of the theater to write.
“It was a horrifying experience that I treasured greatly,” said Ryan Costello, who wrote one of the plays in last year’s event. “I know it’ll translate to the virtual world because, again, with everything going on, we’re all forced to focus on our craft [at home].” Costello is helping to coordinate the event this time around.
When the play is written, actors will audition, via webcam, before being divvied into the various brand-new roles.
“The actors are thinking, what can I do on webcam? Well, if I go far enough back, maybe I can do more. I can make an entrance, I can make exits, but a director is going to figure this out,” said Goldstein. “It’s a new medium I think that’s exciting for the director, but probably freaking them out a little bit too.”
The entire 24-hour event will be live-streamed on Ghost Light TV, a YouTube page created as a collaboration between Reno Little Theater, Good Luck Macbeth and the Brüka Theatre.
“We’ve really sort of formed an alliance through this whole thing and decided that, you know, a lot of our artists and audience members go from theater to theater,” said Taylor. “We decided to have this channel together, and we are seeing people show up to watch the things that we’re producing on there.”
Taylor explained that the term “ghost light” comes from a tradition where when a theater is closed, you leave a light on so that no one gets hurt. (Allegedly there’s also a thespian superstition about leaving a light on so ghosts may perform on stage.)
“The idea of this one light making sure that there is light in the darkness seemed like a really appropriate image, so that’s kind of what we’ve been rallying behind,” she said.
According to Goldstein, the theme of this 24-hour Play Festival is May Day!, and the writers, directors and actors can interpret it however they want.
The event is free to the public, but donations can be made to the Reno Little Theater to continue funding their operations during the temporary closure of all nonessential businesses.
The virtual audience can tune in on Ghost Light TV at any time. The schedule is as follows:
Saturday, May 2 at 6 p.m.: Initial meeting. Announcement of theme, line, prop and auditions/casting
8 p.m.-6 a.m.: Writers write their plays
Sunday, May 3 at 6:30 a.m.: Directors arrive to read and choose plays.
8 a.m.: Actors arrive and rehearsals begin
6 p.m.: Live performances of the plays begin
Learn more here.
Find Ghost Light TV here.