Actors' Theatre of Columbus goes digital with 'The Shakespeare EtherGround'
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has not silenced the Bard in central Ohio.
"The Shakespeare EtherGround" is the online version of "The Shakespeare Underground," in which cast members recite live plays at local bars and other venues. "Underground" events were canceled because of the pandemic.
For the "Ether" series, actors recite plays at the same time from different locations, similar to a Zoom videoconference, in order to promote social distancing, artistic director Philip J. Hickman said.
"The thought behind doing it was trying to stay engaged as artists and keep working, but we're in a new era of what's safe and what is not," Hickman said. "We are trying to find out ways to be creative and innovate as a theater company."
The German Village company canceled the "Royals" series, which was to begin June 18 with "King Lear" at the amphitheater in Schiller Park.
The "Ether" season, which started in April, includes Shakespeare apocrypha, plays and poems that have been attributed to – but not necessarily written by – the playwright, Hickman said.
The next play will be "Fair Em, the Miller's Daughter of Manchester," a comedy about romance written around 1590, Hickman said. It will broadcast Monday, July 13.
"We're editing them all down to roughly 45 minutes to an hour apiece," he said.
Meanwhile, Hickman said Actors' Theatre is continuing its "Throwback Thursdays," for which it plays recordings of performances from the park, from the 1980s through last summer, also on the YouTube channel.
Jodi Marmion, president of the theater's board of trustees, has been impressed with Hickman and the crew for adapting during the pandemic.
"It is a challenge to connect when you're not face to face," Marmion said. "And, I think, every week we have new viewers and hopefully they are spreading the word."
Hickman said the group would be ready if the state ban against large gatherings is lifted.
"We're still hoping to be able to do live performances later this summer," he said, "but it's all dependent on public safety."