A Return to Theatre with “Alcestis” and “Polaroid Stories”

Photo courtesy of Oregon Center for the Arts

As I sat down to watch Oregon Center for the Arts’s (OCA) “Polaroid Stories,” a familiar sense of anticipation came over me. Like many, I miss going to live theatre during the pandemic. I miss the energy the actors emulated from the stage and getting immersed in the world of the play through sets.

OCA put on two plays both live-streamed over Youtube. “Polaroid Stories,” was a modern retelling of the narrative poem “Metamorphoses,” set in the city with street kids telling their stories in short interconnecting vignettes. While “Alcestis,” was a Greek tragedy full of unexpected twists and turns. Both plays were live-streamed over Youtube through a link audience members received with their tickets.

Both plays offered a balance of tragedy and comedy. The topics at hand in “Polaroid Stories” were fairly dark; people advertising the show emphasized its adult themes and enforced that the show was not child friendly. While the show had comedic elements, its overall serious tone left one itching to know what happens next. The same can be said for “Alcestis”, with a slightly happier ending.

The cast and crew of “Polaroid Stories” and “Alcestis” refused to let the limits of Zoom dampen their creative spirit. Backgrounds displayed behind the characters in “Polaroid Stories,” designed by Atlas Mendez and Mirriam Meredith, helped build the world the characters inhabited; background noise and music helped immerse the audience into the play’s environment. Even trippy green screen backgrounds used for the Labyrinth scene in “Polaroid Stories” added an extra dimension to the story.

The magic didn’t just stop at Zoom; several scenes from both plays depart from the application, with some footage filmed around Ashland. At the end of “Alcestis,” there was a short clip of the chorus, played by Chloe Boyan, Jane McCaffrey, and Sean Nelson, singing a final song to the audience. As for “Polaroid Stories,” footage of the actors shot before the show was used as a flashback while Skinheadboy (played by Joseph Whitney) monologued about his dead girlfriend, played by Zoe Flach.

One of the benefits of seeing the shows live-streamed through Zoom is that viewers can see the actors’ facial expressions and emotions up close. For some, it can be hard to read facial expressions or body language from an actor far away, so having the show presented this way made the challenge much easier for theater-goers.

Often, in the age of technology, things don’t always go perfectly well. One of the things I noticed during the plays was how the audio from the microphones wasn’t consistent from actor to actor, and there were times when a microphone would be too loud or have too much feedback. There were also technical problems like delays in video or even internet troubles, but again, it goes with the territory of being entirely online.

There is so much more I can say about the shows. The acting, and the actors showing genuine emotion in their parts. The easier and more accessible way the audience could understand the language of the original text. Even the costumes! So much thought was put into these plays; it didn’t feel like anything changed.

As they say, the show must go on. And for these actors, they made sure it did.

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