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BWW Interview: Director Bernadette Armstrong Pivoting Across The Continents With THE CANTERVILLE GHOST

Open-Door Playhouse and Our Kid and Me Productions THE CANTERVILLE GHOST premieres online March 24, 2021

BWW Interview: Director Bernadette Armstrong Pivoting Across The Continents With THE CANTERVILLE GHOST

The intercontinental collaboration of Open-Door Playhouse and Our Kid and Me Productions THE CANTERVILLE GHOST premieres online March 24, 2021. Open-Door creator Bernadette Armstrong directs this adaptation of the short story by Oscar Wilde featuring a combined cast from Los Angeles and Oxford, U.K.

Bernadette agreed to share some insights on pivoting from live theatre in these pandemic times.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Bernadette!

You launched Open-Door in 2020. How interesting that podcasts are a perfect pivot from live theatre in these pandemic days. What was your original intent for creating Open-Door?

The Open-Door Playhouse Podcast was launched on September 15, 2020, with my play CUSTODY. It was just six days from the date it was scheduled to start it's run at the Secret Rose Theater in North Hollywood - a run that got canceled due to COVID-19. I shopped it around to other theater podcasts but with no luck - simply because I don't have an agent. The idea for the podcast came from listening to Lux Radio Hour Plays that featured Joan Crawford, while doing research for my play JOAN, that ran in 2019 in North Hollywood. I then started thinking of all the other writers and actors who had their plays canceled like me, so I made my decision to open my Playhouse to other writers. I advertised on many of the normal sites and to my surprise about 100 scripts, one acts and ten minutes shorts, came pouring in. We've been up for six months and I've produced 27 plays, all with a wide range of topics.

Did you originally extend your call for playwrights throughout the U.S., or just those from Los Angeles?

BWW Interview: Director Bernadette Armstrong Pivoting Across The Continents With THE CANTERVILLE GHOST I solicited scripts from across the United States and beyond, letting writers know I was looking for anything - LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, senior citizens (there is a shortage of plays featuring 55+ actresses). I also knew from the start, I wanted to solicit plays form prison inmates, so in October 2020 I contacted the PEN America program, as they have a contest each year for inmates across the United States. So far, we've produced two plays by inmates in the U.S., we have a third waiting to be scheduled, and I am reading new material now from three other men who are currently serving time.

How did this intercontinental collaboration with Our Kid and Me all come about?

There is a site called Audrey which is a platform for likeminded podcasts. I clicked on Springline Radio Players and John and David got back to me immediately! They have been reading old British plays and classics since they began, but have yet to provide any original content. Most of their work comes from the Classic British Playwrights. They looked at ODP, liked what they heard and contacted me. They are the ones who picked our first joint production.

What factors came into play in choosing THE CANTERVILLE GHOST as your co-production?

The one thing we want to do is have both sides of the Pond involved in each play. They first pitched a sci-fi script to me that is in rewrite, but decided they didn't want to wait and sent me a bit of a rough draft/outline of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST, adapted from the short story by Oscar Wilde. I am honored that they asked me to direct and help produce the work, and because there is not an original play to work from, I have taken the liberty of adapting the play to fit our audio format. There have been many films made from the story, but I wanted to make it shorter for the podcast.

BWW Interview: Director Bernadette Armstrong Pivoting Across The Continents With THE CANTERVILLE GHOST Would you describe the rehearsal and recording process of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST?

All rehearsals are done on Zoom. They cast three actors from a small acting group in Oxford, and I cast five from Los Angeles, all but one who have already been featured on the Open-Door Playhouse before.

Did the pre-production and production process for THE CANTERVILLE GHOST take much longer than your pre-podcasts for your other 25+ podcasts?

Not really. Once we started rehearsals, I was able to get a better idea of how much rewriting would be involved. That's basically how I usually work on new material. I flush it out after listening and working with the actors, and so far, it's worked out. Gareth Thomas from the U.K. made all the edits for us. He's a gem!

How did you manage to juggle rehearsal time zones between Los Angeles and the United Kingdom?

Morning time for us in L.A. is evening time in the U.K., so we managed to make it work!

Had you worked with any of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST cast or creatives before? I've worked with most of the actors before, except the U.K. actors and McKenna, who is playing Virginia in the play.

At what age did you hear your first play via podcast? Childhood? College years? Within the last five years?

I downloaded plays from the Lux Radio Hour while doing research for my play about Joan Crawford in 2019.

BWW Interview: Director Bernadette Armstrong Pivoting Across The Continents With THE CANTERVILLE GHOST Do you remember what that first podcast was about?

It was called Dollhouse. It was quite dramatic.

You were supposed to open your play CUSTODY live at the Secret Rose last September. Did you tweak that live script from your initial 2020 CUSTODY podcast? In the original format the past, present, and future story lines were interwoven, and played on separate areas of the stage. Now the story is told linearly, which is a much easier format to follow audibly.

You're a denizen of the Los Angeles theatre community. How do you see small theatres reviving?

I honestly don't know right now. Restrictions will have to be lifted quite a bit. So many theatres have closed. Luckily for me, audio books and podcasts are having quite the surge in listenership right now!

What's in the post-pandemic future for Open-Door?

I hope we stay on the air for a long, long time. I love the economy of it, and the availability and vast opportunity it provides for writers, actors and directors. It's not the stage, but the opportunity is incredible. We have a nice following, and I do think if we keep expanding our outreach to new and emerging playwrights, we could go on for a long time!

BWW Interview: Director Bernadette Armstrong Pivoting Across The Continents With THE CANTERVILLE GHOST And for Bernadette Armstrong?

I hope that I can see my own plays, and direct other writers' plays, on stage soon. But for now, I am thrilled to bring them off the stage and into the sound booth!

Thank you again, Bernadette! I look forward to hearing your GHOST!

THE CANTERVILLE GHOST premieres March 24, 2021; and will remain accessible at www.opendoorplayhouse.org


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