Silverthorne Theater: Live isn't the only theater option during COVID
By Sofia Sallaway | Friday, January 22, 2021
By Sofia Sallaway
Friday, January 22, 2021
With COVID-19 stopping all live performances, many theater companies used Zoom as a platform to present their productions. Silverthorne Theater Company, co-founded by UMass Theater alum Lucinda Kidder ‘02G, had a different approach. Company members found that filming their productions, then streaming them online, resulted in higher performance values while having the same energy as performing live and in-person. You can see this approach in their upcoming event, the Short and Sweet (Tiny) New Play Festival, which runs Valentine's Day weekend.
Silverthorne Theater Company is a local professional theater company in Greenfield, MA. Run by Kidder as the Managing Director, their mission is to present adventurous, thought-provoking theatrical experiences, including productions of classic, contemporary and new works for diverse audiences. With COVID unexpectedly happening, Silverthorne took a different approach to online presentations of their performances.
The road from March to today has not been easy for anyone. As Kidder describes it, when the pandemic first hit, the whole company shut down and had to cancel its upcoming Festival of new ten-minute plays. After some time to regroup and plan, Kidder said, in May the company presented Days of Possibilities live on Zoom, featuring more than twenty actors and members of the community, including some UMass students. This attempt at using Zoom exposed typical difficulties with the platform, such as differing internet speeds and troubles with unwanted noises from the background. Having learned from this experience, the theater moved to scheduled streaming of recorded performances. As the pandemic continues, Kidder finds that “people are tired of Zoom” and its technical problems.
Kidder mentions that such Silverthorne events as the Company’s Theater Thursday Play Reading Series and The Tattooed Man Tells All were all pre-recorded, then live streamed for their audience to view. This shift to filming has created more opportunities in the Company. Company members were able to experiment with filming and found ways to make it work best for them. Shooting with multiple cameras and using a sophisticated editing system, they were able to achieve fairly polished results. Mindful of COVID regulations, rehearsal time was reduced, and film locations were found that provided adequate room for distancing. Filming in these conditions allowed for the same level of intensity as live performances. The Tattooed Man Tells All — which, notably, featured another alum, Keith Langsdale ‘07G, in the lead role — was filmed using two cameras and a boom mic in a real kitchen over the course of a week. The screening of The Tattooed Man Tells All was viewed in Europe and throughout the US with the streamed performance and the post show discussion available online.
With location no longer being a barrier, she also noted that actors from as far away as Oklahoma City, New York, and Pennsylvaina were able to participate in the play reading of Soldier Poet, one of the Theater Thursday plays which required specialized skills such as the ability to speak Arabic — sometimes difficult to find with local actors.
When we spoke in December, Silverthorne Theater was filming an online series of actors reading holiday tales for children and adults as well as singing holiday songs. In the coming year, Kidder said, the company plans to present the original 2020 Season production list, with the first live show scheduled to go up In October. Before then, additional virtual productions will keep the theater active as it maintains accessibility for its online audiences. The Short and Sweet (Tiny) New Play Festival, which runs Feb. 12-14, presents 15 short plays submitted from around the world over the first 2 nights, with the top 8, as selected by the audience, getting an encore airing on Feb. 14. Information is at: https://silverthornetheater.org/event/short-sweet-festival-1/
For more information about the company, visit the website at https://silverthornetheater.org/