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BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS Bubble

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Wise Children will present ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS Live (with singing, dancing and kissing) livestreaming from the Bristol Old Vic stage Sept. 22 through 26.

BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS Bubble

Emma Rice, the creator and leader of the UK theatre company Wise Children, has remounted the interrupted U.S. tour of her ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS. Wise Children will present a LIVE production of ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (with singing, dancing and kissing) livestreaming from the Bristol Old Vic stage September 22 through 26, benefiting 30+ theatres worldwide, with each night targeting a different country or region. Pre-pandemic, the U.S. tour was set to begin at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS, based on the movie Les Émotifs Anonymes, follows two lonely souls who make a sweet connection when Angélique takes a job at Jean-René's chocolate factory.

I had the opportunity to revisit with Marc Antolin (who reprises his role of Jean-René) from across the continents while he's staying safe in the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS bubble. The show's entire cast and crew, have been repeatedly COVID-tested and have already spent ten days sheltering at home before entering their quarantine for the two weeks leading up to and including the five LIVE performances.

Thank you for taking the time while living in the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS bubble for this interview, Marc! You were most gracious and informative in your responses in our original interview back in March before the pandemic shut live theatre down.

I trust that you're healthy and staying safe?

Je suis COVID négatif.

Très bien! Where were you on March 12th, when the cancellation of the U.S premiere of ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS at The Wallis was announced? Still in England? Or just arrived in Los Angeles for your March 17th opening?

BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS BubbleWe were actually still in London preparing to fly out. I had my suitcase packed and ready to go.

Was the rest of your U. S. tour still planned then, at first?

At that time, everything was so unknown, but the rest of tour was still going ahead. My plan was to still fly to L.A. and visit friends and pick up the tour in Washington DC. It was the cancellation of all flights to the U.S. the day before I was meant to go that I realized sadly it may not happen.

Would you describe quarantine life where you live? (masks, business closures)

I escaped back to quarantine in Wales with family. It's close to the beach, so I had lots of space. Wales was quite strict with lockdown and started easing a lot later than England, so for a while I could only travel five miles. Masks in shops have just been made compulsory, and I think it's such a great idea. It makes you feel safer, and reminds everyone that the virus is still very much around. It's so sad to see businesses struggling during these times, but Wales has such a fantastic community spirit. I've tried to support lots of local businesses during quarantine.

Whose idea was it to put on this live production of ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS at the Bristol Old Vic September 22 through the 26th?

Simon Baker, who is Technical Director at Wise Children was already exploring the new technology for live-streaming theatre. So, Emma Rice and Poppy Keeling seized on the idea and completely ran with it to bring theatre to a wide audience. It's an incredibly ambitious production, and so admirable that they've taken the huge risk to see if this is a possible way of keeping theatre live.

Each performance will be livestreamed for the benefit of various theatres in a variety of countries worldwide. Do you know how Wise Children chose the theatres to participate?

BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS BubbleIt's so brilliant that all these other theaters are involved and thrilling knowing that we'll be completely live around the world. In times like these, we are so much stronger together and this feels like a massive solidarity in the industry. The theaters were chosen by the producing team and many of the theaters are from relationships already cemented with Wise Children from taking shows there in the past. There are also new partnerships, and Wise Children was keen to support as many theaters as possible and get a good geographical spread.

Did you immediately say yes to being a part of this incredible landmark undertaking of post-pandemic live theatre?

At first, when I heard Wise Children was looking into how this would all be possible, my heart skipped a beat. I adore this show, and felt like we had serious unfinished business. I was desperate for it to all become possible and as soon as we knew it was going to happen in a controlled and safe environment, there was no way I wasn't going to do it.

How was this bubble process described to you?

It's very much the same model used for football teams. The safety of everyone involved is always the most important part. We were tested prior to an isolation period and then transported to self-contained accommodation around the corner from the theatre. Our temperatures are taken every day on arrival and are having regular antibody tests throughout the process. Theater people and more importantly stage management teams are machines at organizing things, and this feels like a complete undercover secret mission. It's thrilling to be a part of.

BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS BubbleWill you be reuniting with a lot of your U.S. tour castmates?

Sadly, two members of the U.S. tour cast were unable to return, as they are stuck in other countries. Phillip Cox, who originated the role of the Dad in 2017, has returned for this production, which is wonderful, and Omari Douglas has joined the cast and managed to learn the whole show via Zoom. Incredible! It's so brilliant having them join us. They've brought a new, different energy to the production. We miss Brett (Brown) and Craig (Pinder), but are so glad they're keeping safe in Australia and America. Hopefully, we'll all get to finish what we started.

This Bristol Old Vic production of ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS isn't your first post-pandemic theatrical project. You just recently completed mounting the theatrical boards (and rooftop) of The Watermill Theatre in CAMELOT playing Lancelot. How satisfying was it for you to perform live with performers and musicians for a live audience?

Oh, I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to get back to some work. I'd been completely isolated in Wales and hadn't seen many friends for a long time, so I was actually very anxious to return to some sort of other life. Luckily ,I quickly remembered how to interact with people and resisted the urge to hug everyone. It's amazing to be able to perform again. To bring live theatre and music to audiences was completely overwhelming.

What safety precautions did The Watermill utilize?

BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS BubbleCAMELOT was a socially distanced production, so we, as a cast and creative team, maintained these rules at all times, including rehearsing in individual squares. The audience was seated at tables that were each in their own space. There was actually lots of fun to be had with getting around the social distancing in creative staging. There were lots of wiping down props to hand to someone else. I wish theater people were in charge of a lot more things, we're good at solving problems and having fun at the same time.

You told me before that you're very minimal in bringing non-essentials on your tour. What are you bringing with you for your down time in the bubble?

Antibacterial hand gel, wipes and face masks are a must. All my TV/movie subscriptions, some books to pass the isolation time and, optimistic that I might do any exercise, I brought some resistance bands. I'll let you know how that works out...

How has life in the bubble been so far, and how are rehearsals going?

It's been the most joyous thing. We're obeying social distancing rules when not vital to the rehearsal process, but there was a moment when myself and Carly Bawden were rehearsing one of our dances that I held my hand out and she took it. The enormity of that tiny gesture only really hit me that evening. Rehearsals are going really well. There's something strange about picking back up with this show at Bristol Old Vic, where we left it in January. It's like we're in a parallel world where the last six months hasn't happened. I hope that the people who tune in to watch will feel that sense of escapism and remember the times when we could sit in a theatre together and laugh, cry, sing, dance and hold hands.

Marc, thank you again for agreeing to share your experience in the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS bubble.

BWW Interview: Marc Antolin On Entering the ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS BubbleFor viewing tickets for the U.S. performance September 26, 2020; as well as the other dates for the other countries; log onto

The September 26th livestreaming will be benefiting: Berkeley Rep, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Shakespeare Theatre Company (Washington, DC), Spoleto Festival USA, St. Ann's Warehouse and The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

To read my original BWW interview with Marc, in which he talks more about Carly, ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS and getting ready for the U.S. tour, click here.

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From This Author Gil Kaan