"She directs the entire cast from her laptop."
August 29, 2020 10:35 PM   Subscribe

SF Shakespeare Festival is live streaming King Lear and it's the best Zoom theater you've ever seen. No, seriously, this is THE BEST PRODUCTION technology-wise I've seen done on live Zoom filming. It runs through the end of September on weekends. You should see it. I say this as someone who isn't a fan of the plot of King Lear or eye squick, but the filming of this is AMAZING.

Actual humans in scenes together, with backgrounds that behave. There's even knife fights. This video shows briefly how they're filming, this blog post explains the transition to Zoom, and this blog post explains in great detail exactly how they're managing to combine people altogether in one scene. Play program can be found here.

Their YouTube channel is here, airing Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 4 Pacific Standard Time. There's an online chat with the cast and crew at 7:15 PST tomorrow.
posted by jenfullmoon (13 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, and I forgot to post the King Lear Green Show.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 PM on August 29

Great recommendation, thank you! The play program link didn't work for me. Here's a link which did: http://www.sfshakes.org/events/112
posted by Bwithh at 12:33 AM on August 30

Link for "This video shows briefly how they're filming" goes to rehearsal footage of Anything Goes from a few years ago on Broadway.
posted by tzikeh at 10:07 AM on August 30

Wow - this is amazing!
posted by PhineasGage at 4:22 PM on August 30

Just watched it. It’s good to know that there are people out there who have found ways of overcoming these times, and made it possible for each of us sitting alone in our homes to be a part of something bigger.

Zoom takes on a whole new meaning with this.
posted by njohnson23 at 7:13 PM on August 30

JAYSUS CHRIST. I don't know why half the links somehow don't work between the time I checked them when posting and now. I apologize.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:56 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]

FTFA: "To do so, we use specialized broadcasting software that allows us to take the combined images of our actors and stream it live on YouTube for you, our lovely audience!"

Does anyone know what they're using? Is it just OSB, or something commercial-grade?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:23 AM on August 31

I've seen a fair amount of Zoom theatre so far, and in terms of directing and presentation, this is the best thing I've seen so far.

The Seventh Voyage of Egon Tichy (adapted from the stories of Stanislaw Lem).

(Ok, this is more than you can do with Zoom alone, but my comment still stands. By Theatre in Quarantine).
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:14 AM on August 31

They did not specify on the software. I did take notes during the Zoom Q&A, though:

* Per the tech guy, he's got at least 3 GIANT screens, with everyone on Zoom on one monitor, script is up there, and there's a "very precise green screen setup." Each one is cropped from their windows into a "paper cutout" and he arranges them on screen in layers. It's compiled on the computer and sent to YouTube.
* Actors have a green screen area of 6 feet of depth and 8 feet of width, having to hit very precise marks.
* There's a half second lag on Zoom sound and more than half a second delay on screen.
* The actress playing Lear said she may not always hear the sound cute when she's at Goneril's, and someone has to go 'bark bark" at her. The sight lines seem to change every week and they have to keep redoing them. Today she said she was looking in the wrong direction for several scenes. You may hit your mark while filming, but if you move 6 inches while in the moment, you might throw everything off. She had "committed to wearing snazzy sandals" and can't change them because it would change her height.
* The stage manager says she's not doing very much here, it's the tech guy doing all the calls.
* Some folks had evacuation threat but were okay in their homes. They noted that if they had been performing IRL they probably would have had to shut down for the smoke.
* Facebook didn't work for this whole thing.
* Some actors have very small apartments, had to create studio space, and kids/pets wandering through.
* "It's always magic every time there's a letter handoff and fight choreography."
* The lady playing Cordelia said that all we have are each other's voices.
* I asked about more Zoom issues--i.e how do they not have the weird Zoom motion issues--and they said that using physical green screens make it a lot easier than relying on how Zoom cropping goes, which is relatively accurate. They mentioned "nose chop-off" and corners being the bane of green screens. They said they were double chroma keying it--green screens behind them that Zoom uses to crop them out, they send it to me with a fake green screen and he crops it out on his end a second time.
* I asked about the lack of swords---I assumed it was a physical/props issue-- and they said that the fight director decided to use small weapons because "a common person has a relationship with a knife."
* One guy asked if a pre-requisite to being cast was having a good Internet connection or were they able to beef it up for someone and they said that almost everyone was cast in January/February (a few were added/replaced later) and they just beefed it up for several people.
* The actress that played Regan said they were afraid about hitting their marks and that was hard on opening night, but now they're more used to it. She has the most technical sight map/line map of everyone (and a photo was shown of her floor) and she said she can't look down to check, so she has to "memorize the spike" and they all have that.
* The actress playing Cordelia was wearing textured slippers to find her spikes, which she held up. "I'm a cheater."
* "even with green screens, lighting setup is very critical and finicky. We have actors adjust several settings for white balance, brightness etc on the cameras, and even have to adjust those as the light decreases in the evening"
* Their playing space is very, very small. "You're acting in a small box."
* The actor playing Gloucester said his wife helps tie him to a chair, while another actor is projected in. His wife also paints in his blood.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:47 PM on August 31 [8 favorites]

Thank you for posting this! I'm looking forward very much to seeing it.

I've been pondering the possibilities of Zoom (or other online broadcast) theatre: the use it can make of imagined space, what it can do that in-person theatre can't. Or, what can be done easily online that would be difficult/expensive in realtime.

I've been in one The Show Must Go Online production and workshopped some things with Beyond Shakespeare and other groups, as well as watching a bunch of other people's work. (I can recommend TSMGO as a fun and wholesome experience, especially if you watch live and participate in chat.)

For example, this Chorus speech from TSMGO's Henry V strikes me as a staging that works, is fun, is clear in its meaning and only possible online. It's too low-tech for film and too small-scale for a stage, but on YouTube it works perfectly.

TSMGO's ethos is: unpaid; three days' rehearsal; homemade props; a certain amount of tech and fight choreo but only what's possible in three days. I'm looking forward to this Lear because I want to see what's possible at a professional level, rehearsed, tech'd and done live from memory.

I would like to be in or see a production of one of the "magic plays", ideally done live but well rehearsed with decent tech. I think I'd like to direct an online Doctor Faustus, once I have more of a grasp of the medium (and/or have made contact with people who have).
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:53 PM on August 31

Darn it, I knew of a Doctor Faustus production going on but it already happened yesterday! They said they will put it on Soundcloud though, just not sure where that page is or when.

Will check the rest of these later after work. Thanks for more links, I'm excited to find more things to watch!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:57 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]

Jen, thank you with all my heart for those notes!!

I love that Gloucester's wife ties him up. Plot TWIST
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:31 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]

This was such a fantastic show! Wonderfully, creatively done on all fronts. I admit I always really love King Lear as a woman, and I thought Jessica Powell did a really tremendous job, on top of the technical challenges of it.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 7:22 PM on September 6

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