Well what does one do in the midst of a global pandemic, when the baseball season ins on jeopardy, I have created over 20 shows of Cooking with Eddie: La Mia Cucina, and it is so hot out you can barely breath? Get out early to see some sunflowers in bloom and think of Italy, that’s what. And that is just what Marijke and I did this morning. It was heaven. A nice break from the grind.
Theaters are shuttered in Washington, DC, and across the country. Nothing is being produced on Broadway. Most productions are not even being considered to open until 2021 at the earliest. The so-called gig economy is dead. So how are institutions and artists surviving? Will they be able to make it through 12 months of no business? Will audiences be confident enough to return to the theaters? The arts are in a crisis, like all of the world economy. It is a precarious time.
Many theaters I know are doing “salons.” Free programming via Zoom or other similar platforms, with interviews of artists discussing various topics, sometimes providing reruns of previous productions, all designed to keep brands alive and to to retain audiences. Other theaters are providing Zoom readings of plays. Most are benefits for a variety of charities, which mean artists are working for free to help save institutions.How long can artists donate their time for the sake of an institution? It’s a tough row to hoe. Zoom fatigue is setting in, and requests for donations are everywhere. What are theaters to do?
Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage came up with something different. She though of the idea to produce an artistic snapshot of the DC region in the midst of a global pandemic. What if, she thought, she sent 10 playwrights out into the region to interview a cross section of Washingtonians on the same day, then write a 3-5 minute monologue of each interviewee, invite 10 Washington actors to perform the monologues with 2 hours of rehearsal, shoot it all on one day, outside, in one continuous shot, and pay the artists for their work! Well that is precisely what she did. The result is a 55 minute docudrama called May 22, 2020, a kind of synthesis of theater skill meeting film. It premiered last week and is available to stream live to anyone who cares to watch. Below is a clip of my piece about a Washington beekeeper.
Molly is deeply committed to the community and looks for ways to keep the artists connected to the Arena audience through the actual work. It was a pleasure to work with her on the film. We rehearsed twice on the same day, a Thursday, and the piece was shot on the following Sunday. It was a whirlwind, but I think the results are really fine. The film is a great artistic snapshot of what we are all going through with the covid-19 pandemic. Then, a few days later, the world changed again with the shooting of George Floyd and the demonstrations against racial injustice that continue weeks later.
This is an extraordinary time to be alive. Challenging, anxiety making, hopeful, all at once. It is not often that a world confronts its own weaknesses and issues of the health of the body, the body politic, the economy, and that of the entire social structure. We move forward one day at a time, reflecting, listening, making art, demonstrating, voting, hoping to find ways to make the world better, more just, more perfect.
TO VIEW THE ENTIRE FILM MAY 22. 2020 CLICK THE LINK BELOW
I was stunned when I woke this morning to hear Morning Joe introduce a clip from a documentary I was honored to narrate to commemorate the historic invasion that liberated Europe.
The documentary Operation Overlord: OSS and the Battle for France was recorded to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of DDay, It won two awards last year at the Palm Beach International.
I am very proud to be associated with this project. Here is the official trailer.
If you are interested in viewing the entire short film you can see it on YouTube here
It is an amazing piece of history and a beautiful piece of artistry in this project. Thank you to director Carl Colby, producers Walker Lambert, Charles Pinck, and Karolina Jasinska de Benavides.
In response to the Covid-19 spread, we decided to hunker down at home on the 13th of March. It has been 16 days now, and we were apparently clear of exposure, so far. We are doing our best to keep chins up: we are doing mindfulness practice and yoga a few times a week, I am out weeding and tending to the garden, about to plant some lettuce and arugula so we have some fresh produce in the coming weeks, and we are ever grateful for our dog, Demi, who gives us unconditional love and emotional support. We pray for the health and strength of our family and friends, our relatives in Italy, and all over the world.
My profession is taking a huge hit, both on an institutional level and personal. Work is shuttered. Much Ado About Nothing was postponed until next season, and the new Theresa Rebeck play Enlightenment which I was scheduled to rehearse in August has been pushed back a full year. Can theaters in Washington survive? When I first came here there were 5 theaters, now somewhere around 80. I expect many of the smaller theaters, and perhaps some of the larger institutions will be damaged, if not silenced forever. It is a very sad time everywhere.
However, we as artists continue to express ourselves via the net. My dear old friend and colleague, Michael Gaston, (who was in a production of Fuente Ovejuna with me in the early 90’s at the Shakesepeare Theatre at the Folger) started a hashtag #readasonnet. It’s fantastic. Folks are getting up, recording and posting a piece. Patrick Stewart started reading Shakespeare on Twitter as well. It’ a thing. Check it out. Here is my contribution.
Sonnet 91 #readasonnet
I believe, like the monks of the Middle Ages who gathered and conserved the great books of culture and held them in safe-keeping, we as artists have a responsibilit to bring our culture and values forward through our art. There will be an end to this, there will be a Renaissance, and we will flock to the arts, to meet, collect, reflect, exhult, exhalt, and celebrate our humanity in theatres and concerts halls, opera houses, and art museums and galleries across the world.
Like many other shows around the country effected by the mitigation effort for the oncoming Covid-19 emergency, Simon Godwin and team at Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) have decided to postpone the production of Much Ado About Nothing rescheduling it as part of the 2020-21 season. I am looking forward to playing Leonato under Simon’s direction, getting to know him, his process, and how he is shaping STC in his mew leadership role. We have met several times and have developed a correspondence. Having been a part of that organization since 1984 to the present, covering a few years leading up to and through the entire duration of the Michael Kahn era, I remain committed to being a part of the new Godwin chapter. However, I certainly am relieved to know that the safety of the artists and patrons is the primary impetus for the decision.
I know this crisis will effect the so-called “gig’ economy, of which we “working stiffs” are a part, for many months. I certainly wish everyone health and safety in the trying days before, and pray for strength. patience, and caring for each other. How will we be different? All I know is that life is precious. Peace. And God speed.
Because of what I felt to be a very successful and satisfying experience of journaling the artistic process with my first blog “The Making of RED,” I wanted to do the same when I began the process of portraying Justice Antonin Scalia with Molly Smith and John Strand on his new play The Originalist. Although it has been almost 6 years since that process began, the idea of the blog was deferred at the time, as the script was embargoed until the opening of the world premiere. That made good sense. Besides, the process was well chronicled in the media. But then in it’s second incarnation and first revival, it seemed appropriate to return as the play was about to begin rehearsals in 2016 at Asolo Rep in Sarasota, Florida, after its very successful world premiere run at Arena Stage from March through June 2014. I was pleased to return to this script and role, as it had major and long lasting personal significance having spent so much time with the Justice himself in his last full term on the Supreme Court. That is the subject of another endeavor, perhaps with a working title, “My Year with Nino.” Unfortunately, I did not write that blog. I don’t know. Perhaps because the Justice had passed away, or that there was a new administration. It is a bit if a regret, as the play opened on inauguration day 2017 and had a life span of 18 months, traveling across the country from Florida to California, back to Washington, DC, then Chicago, and on to New York, all the while measuring the temperature of the body politic and the decay of civil discourse that the play was attempting to forestall. Nonetheless, I return here, finally setting up a webpage of my own, to chronicle what I am calling The Working-Stiff Actor, a blog of the day to day ins and outs, ups and downs of a working life in the theatre. I hope you come back from time to time, read, and comment. Enjoy!