By Shawn Maus
I love live theatre. I’m torn with this new world we’re in that produces theatre on YouTube or other streaming services. I know that the movie megaplexes are showing Metropolitan Opera shows and other Broadway shows on the big screens. I applaud the theatre world for taking lemons from the pandemic and making lemonade via Youtube or other streaming.
So when I sat down in my big, comfy recliner, with my dog at my side, and tuned my Apple TV to YouTube for the Miami University Fringe Festival I didn’t really know what to expect. Their production of “The End of the World” started a few minutes late so I was worried that I holed up in my bunker/man-cave and missed the end of the world.
But all was not lost as a voice called out from the darkness. However, it took a few more minutes for the lights to come up – yes, the darkness was for dramatic purposes. Heads were in the front of the camera lens just like sitting in the real theatre. Two men sit together, each in two wooden chairs, in a dark space, sitting there waiting for their turn. In passing the time they discuss the ending of a nine-year marriage, the marriage of a daughter, and that “this world is something that you can’t ever prepare for.”
As Jack asks, “Do we exist just lose those things that we love?” It’s a deep question that budding playwright Baxter Whitehead ponders in his Miami University Fringe Festival entry. It’s a quickly paced show with bare staging and lighting as is expected in a fringe-style show. What made this show even more interesting is that those of us who viewed the show on YouTube were brought in from the fringe of our existence to view a deep play that is summed up in the question and answer between the two main characters. “I wonder what brings her here?” “The same as us, I imagine. We’re not here for ourselves.”
It’s a deep question to ask theatergoers during a pandemic. Just like the character Jack asks, “How do I live a fulfilling life now? I’m tired of figuring things out, tired of struggling to be happy, wading our way through the swamp of false hope, and medical jargon. “
Well for us theatergoers, we’re here to support shows such as this. Even for the quick twenty minutes that we shared space together, it’s well worth it to see theatre on the boards again. It’s well-worth supporting a budding playwright while he and his characters, actors, and production crew work on the fringes of a pandemic to express their art. While YouTube can’t replace the in-person theatrical experience we’ve been used to for thousands of years, it’s not the end of the world. It’s what Miami’s Fringe is all about as expressed in their tagline:
Meeting disruption with innovation.
The Miami University Theatre Fringe Festival runs through Sunday, November 21 both online and in theatres. For the complete schedule visit: https://www.miamioh.edu/cca/academics/departments/theatre/production-season/digital-fringe/
Shawn Maus is a screenwriter, television producer, theatre director, and old-time radio enthusiast. A number of his screenplays have been optioned and/or are under development. He is also a director for commercials, industrial videos, and a voice-over actor. He has been a reviewer for LCT since 2015.