How Live Theatre Is Still Running Despite Lockdown

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How Live Theatre Is Still Running Despite Lockdown

Since Covid-19 closed auditoriums worldwide, theatres have been picking tapes of shows from the library shelf to stream online for those feeling play-starved.

But a few performers are attempting something more radical – regularly live streaming performances from home. There’s an audience – but it’s not easy to make the technology work.

Brian Lonsdale has made a living from acting for 17 years. He’s based in Newcastle, where there’s a family to feed and, these days, to home school.

“When coronavirus started to kick in I was having a Twitter chat with a couple of actor mates discussing what the next few months would bring,” he says.

“Acting isn’t exactly a secure profession and everything was just collapsing. So we invented the Coronavirus Theatre Club (CTC) and it took off.”

CTC is an online platform for writers, directors and actors, he explains.

“They submit work to us. They rehearse digitally and then each Sunday at 7pm we stream five live monologues back to back.

“I’m pretty much working at it every hour of the day; hundreds and hundreds of theatre people just want to work.

“I look at the scripts submitted and then pair actors with directors and see who wants to do what. I’ve been learning so much.

“Each day I’ll realise there’s something I can’t do or something I should be doing. My life as an actor has been to learn lines, say them on stage and then it’s off to the pub.

“Now I’m splitting the work with my colleagues Sam Neale and Michael Blair and the response has been fantastic. We had 1,000 followers within two hours.”

CTC streams the monologues on Twitter, he explains.

“Each actor is at home in front of their phone which they prop up or maybe have on a tripod. I give them an exact start time and that should be all they have to worry about; they know to begin at 7.13pm or whatever.

“They’re live on their Twitter account and I stream them to the Coronavirus Theatre Club account. It’s my job to try to make it seamless.”

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Already they’re contemplating extending beyond mere monologue, says Lonsdale.

“Lots of performers will be self-isolating with other actors so we could for instance do two performers together – or even have a scene split between different parts of the country.”

The CTC hasn’t so far ventured into musical performance. But that’s the focus of Leave a Light On, run by production company Lambert Jackson, which mainly presents concert performances of musicals.

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There’s a charge for the shows, using the Theatre Cafe website as a portal.

Currently there’s an ambitious schedule of three 45-minute gigs daily at 14:30, 16:30 and 18:30 BST.

They’re solo performances from kitchens or living rooms – a real test of performers’ vocal skills (and taste in home decor).

How Live Theatre Is Still Running Despite Lockdown

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