By Brandt Roberts
My last entry on this blog was while I was directing the apprentices in their capstone production of The Fox. Shortly thereafter, the world changed. The Fox was cancelled after two public performances due to the pandemic and Commonweal quickly found itself in the midst of a lockdown.
As the months have gone by, we saw show after show in our season become postponed or canceled. That’s when the Commonweal began to pursue alternative programming. One result of this endeavor is The Root River Anthology, a radio play by Catie Glynn. It is a beautiful and poignant story. I cannot recommend it enough – it’s actually still available to stream on our website until June 30th!
A few weeks ago, Adrienne Sweeney asked if I would be willing to remount my one-person show, The Art of the Entertainer, as an online offering. I was intrigued.
Soon Philip Muehe and Josiah Laubenstein were brought on to direct and film
the piece respectively. We began brainstorming how to adapt the play for video and
explored embracing the new medium. I had written the piece twelve years ago as a
vehicle to celebrate theatre, while also parodying various genres. An original goal of
the piece was to have audience volunteers come up on stage, alas that is hard to
achieve on film. However, I realized that the audience gets to experience the stage
through me. They are unseen spectators of the character’s clumsy journey. We also
realized the medium itself could be an entity within the film. That potential has been
exciting to explore within the process, and I cannot wait to see the end results.
An interesting fact: I have produced this piece four times over the past ten years. Each incarnation has been unique with different scenes, songs, sketches, etc.The Art of the Entertainer is a vaudeville piece after all, and this film is just another
manifestation full of new choices and new directions.
There is a wonderful team behind this project. It could not exist without all their work. It’s strange to think that July 6th is the tenth anniversary of the first performance. It has had quite a trip, and I cannot wait for you all to experience its newest form. In these hard times I hope this piece offers the healing gift of laughter. “See” you soon!