Zoom Theater Allows NYC Actress To Creatively Build Community During Covid-19
New York City actress Alison Chace is no stranger to bringing people together virtually - a skill coming in handy during the coronavirus pandemic. Through her side-hustle business Pink Wisdom, she's hosted an online support network, galvanizing women to invigorate their love lives and careers, for years. Now, missing actors who are also part of The Barrow Group Theatre Company's Tuesday Master Class, Chace is contributing to an in-house Zoom theater group.
23 players from the class, taught by founder and co-artistic director Lee Brock, perform shows for one another every Sunday night at 8PM EDT on the now-ubiquitous online communications platform. While the company is not open to the public and makes no money, it serves as creative outlet for participants, enabling them to craft something positive out of the coronavirus.
The group, ranging in age from 25 to 65, takes turns choosing plays with many roles to accommodate the ensemble. They aim to flex their creative muscles, have fun, and garner attention from casting directors and producers seeking actors and projects, who are currently less distracted by productions placed on hold.
Chace has brought her entrepreneurial expertise in creating community and momentum to the first plays. In Pride and Prejudice, she was cast as the oldest sister Jane, raided her closet for three costume changes, and surrounded her stage (a.k.a. her dining room table) with candles and tulips. In Macbeth, she played the moon goddess Hecate, and evoked enthralling vibes by placing her laptop in front of her fireplace and switching off the lights. For In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, Chace played the foul-talking mom Mrs. Reyes, dressing in a white tank top and black bra, and dangling a cigarette from her mouth when not munching potato chips.
Spearheaded by Neil Fleishcher, the group's many creatives also contribute their unique skills to bring the Zoom plays to life. Lauren Schaffel organizes as a virtual stage manager. Preston Smith, Jeffrey Mark Cusumano, and Fleischer, who are also professional musicians, perform live music to signal scene intros and outros. Fleischer's daughter, Anna Fleischer, creates artwork to promote the weekly plays. Members rotate reading stage directions. The actors rehearse during the week via smaller, break-out sessions, and all are getting resourceful with items in their homes as Chace did to craft lighting, props, and costumes.
Brock, whose support and guidance is always available for the Zoom group, provides guiding principles for their tone: positivity, love, and light, as well as letting go of judgement and self-criticism, and enjoying playing. Her techniques such as "throwing the words away" and creating "an intimate conversation" work well in this New Medium.
A recent New York Times article discussed how online acting classes can help actors be more intimate and nuanced, and the group has certainly found that to be true. Chace works to bring people together in real life too; she's hosted salons at her New York City apartment, and founded the Holly- wood Studio Club, an inspiration circle for actresses in the women's co-working space The Wing. The club creates space for women to uplift one another and pursue their own projects instead of waiting for others to decide their careers.