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Open Book Theatre Company Presents THE INFLUENCE OF iPOPPY

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Open Book has planned a 6 show season of One to One Virtual Theatre, and iPoppy is their second offering.

Open Book Theatre Company Presents THE INFLUENCE OF iPOPPY

We've seen a rise in internet celebrities, or influencers, as anyone with a smart phone and a social media account can create an online personality and fanbase. But how does that online presence influence the influencer? How does our online presence influence even those of us who aren't celebrities?

Open Book Theatre Company (OBTC) explores those questions in its second live, virtual offering, The Influence of iPoppy. Poppy Esperanza calls herself a "Latina Tina social media maven and makeup artist back slash crafty diva," and the online play takes place during a special live zoom to celebrate reaching one million followers.

The play opened Thursday, Oct. 8 and runs online Monday and Thursday nights through October 26th. The performances are 10 minutes long, and audience members get a private performance with just one person watching at a time.

M.X. Sotero, a New York City playwright, was commissioned to write the play. He said we was inspired "by online make up tutorials, their instant rise to fame and the recent death of a 17 year old ex Mormon Gay make up artist who got so quickly caught up in the business of fame and success that the temptation of drugs ultimately took his life. It moved me that this world is so unknown to most of us and how these insta celebrities and influencers are real people who are just reaching out to the world in hopes that they can be relevant and have affirmation."

Topher Alan Payne, who worked with Open Book for several years before moving away to New York City, directs. Virtual theatre has allowed him to work with OBTC again, which he says "is a joy! A true silver lining to being in my tiny one-bedroom apartment in Queens almost 24/7 during this pandemic has been to play with the Open Book family again!"

Marcela Garzaro, an MFA student at Wayne State University, plays Poppy. "I connected to the character easily. I remember telling Topher and Mario that I knew exactly who this woman is. We have all met a version of her, seen a version of her. She is a mix of all these people, and with Mario's writing, it was very easy to get into the character. Also, I have (like many) had my own issues with social media, and though I am not an influencer myself, the 'addiction' is all too real, the sadness when you can't compare to your friends, all the ugly that can come with it. I have had to take breaks from it to recentre myself. I feel like she goes through a bit of that, but I also believe she loves it so much that she quickly regains composure, and like a phoenix at the end, rebrands right in front of her fans eyes."

Payne adds that being an influencer "is a TOUGH job. You have no privacy. Your life is always your job as you document and video multiple times every day. The big question of what is real and what is fake, and where do those lines blur is valid for all Instagram celebrities and even for most of us who are active on social media"

As Open Book has had to pivot programming to keep audiences and performers safe during this global pandemic, it seems fitting to explore the relationship between our real lives and our online personas via virtual theatre. Payne said "I hope the audience remembers the job of live performance -- even live performance through their computer screens. Sharing our stories with each other, making a human connection, and struggling with universal emotions and questions reminds us of our humanity."

Open Book has planned a 6 show season of One to One Virtual Theatre, and iPoppy is their second offering. Each show runs just under 10 minutes, and is one person watching one performer, live. The audience and the performer can see each other, and are sharing space similar to how they would in a theatre. "A lot of people are hesitant about it at first," artistic director Krista Schafer Ewbank said, "but we are getting a great response once people give it a chance. Our audience members have told us that they've laughed, cried, and felt connected in a way they haven't during these strange times. The arts have always responded to what's happening in the world, and we're excited to be a part of that. We are producing meaningful theatrical experiences within the limitations we have. It's exciting. Art should always speak to us where we are, and right now, we are online!"

Tickets are $20, or you can pick up a second chance season ticket to see iPoppy and the next 4 shows for only $80, which is like getting a show for free. The season is being developed oer as the theatre responds to ever changing world. November's show is titled What Brought Me Here and has a theme of gratitude. It features OBTC regular Lindel Salow, is directed by another OBTC regular, Wendy Katz Hiller, and is being written by Los Angeles writer Alyson Shelton. "All of these shows are an interesting collaboration between our company and the artists involved as we work together to create a meaningful show for our audience."

More information about The Influence of iPoppy, as well as Open Book's other offerings, can be found on their website, openbooktc.com.



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