Bringing down the house, and the bookshelf, during a Zoom performance

Mine was small role, and yet it was not.

There was nothing small about the JFed Players Community Theater Ensemble’s virtual production of “Studio System,” a charming musical comedy written by Mary Gatter and her collaborator, Larry Wuest. It was a good Pandemic project since the rehearsing and filming would be done entirely at home.

That meant that each of the cast members had to set up a makeshift home studio and interact with each other via Zoom. As in “Which way do I turn my head to talk to someone who is supposed to be across the table but is actually across town, or in another state?”

You know that theory about how learning new tasks can be good for your brain? Well, I put it to the physical test while prepping for the recording session when the whole cast came together to make it look like we were all in the same place.

To accomplish this we each needed to have a common backdrop that played out in anything from the right color sheet, towel, fabric, or, a professional green screen. Yes, I’m showing off here because I had never heard of one until a couple of months ago. And no, I don’t have one.

So I borrowed a dark-colored bath sheet and hung it on the bookcase anchored by a thick volume of Shakespeare on one corner and The Complete Canterbury Tales on the other. You’d think these guys could manage a terry cloth towel, but just as I started saying my lines they came crashing down on my head, along with the towel and a few books that were supposed to be holding up the middle.

“Really, was I that bad?”

For me, the wonder of this whole production, aside from not getting a concussion, was the exquisite blending of talent, vision, and patience on steroids that went into it. The technical learning curve was dizzying. Even when the top of someone’s head was popping out of the screen frame (Guess who?) everyone kept their cool and calmly corrected.

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