It’s pandemic-time and will be pandemic-time for a long time. Theaters are dark, but the internet is alive with music, song, stories, jokes, plays . . . as performers and artists turn to their webcams and microphones to continue to do what they love.
When it became increasingly clear that the shut down was not going to be “temporary” and that we would have to postpone our Fall premiere of Elena Ruehr’s Cosmic Cowboy, I was determined that we would not “go dark.” If live performance in the theater was not possible, then we would present live performance on a digital platform. Alice in the Pandemic is created specifically for a digital platform in collaboration with Jorge Sosa, Elena Araoz, (the composer and director of last season’s I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams) and myself. It is a cathartic response to the separation, dislocation, and isolation we all feel today and an acknowledgment of the sacrifice our medical heroes make every day as they put their mission to save lives before themselves.
Creating in pandemic-times is difficult, at least for me; I often feel immobilized by the weight of time pressing down on me. But the deadline of having to create, write, compose, cast, rehearse and produce a new piece in six months galvanized me, indeed, our whole creative team, into action. I wrote a working draft of the libretto in a week so Jorge could start composing. We had same-day turnarounds for revisions. Jorge woke at 4am every day to write music and he will finish the first draft of the full score in two months, a veritable record!
The live element in performance is really important for me; I miss it terribly. Thus, in addition to creating the work on the artistic side, White Snake Projects embarked on finding the right tech team to support the creatives and artists so we can make a work as close to live as possible, given the constraints of technology.
A major challenge to live performance on a digital platform is lag or latency. Lag requires that the audio come from one source. Those of you who came to Sing Out Strong: DeColonized Voices saw that the cello and piano accompaniment were prerecorded and only the singer sang live. This is because of lag. I’m proud to tell you that we’ve solved the lag problem, at least for 3-4 live performers, and that the principal artists in Alice will be singing live together from remote locations. This is a huge breakthrough for music performance on a digital platform. We’re also using a specially modified version of Zoom to control camera cuts. This makes it possible to cut professionally from singer to singer with no delays and to rearrange how we group singers together on Zoom.
Isolation can be fertile ground for innovation. I’m grateful that the White Snake Projects’ team has come together to build a new work for a new age.
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