by Lynn on April 17, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Where? On my very own phone.

Written (for the most part) by Julie Tepperman

Directed by Julie Tepperman

Cast: Some of this city’s best actors, comedic and otherwise.

A grand telephone experiment during this weird time of isolation because of the Corona Virus.

Background. Convergence Theatre composed of Co-Artistic Directors Julie Tepperman and Aaron Willis, specialize in site-specific plays. The Gladstone Variations for example took place in and around the Gladstone Hotel a few summers ago. That was my initiation. They are brilliant in creating a world of interconnecting stories that have the audience follow a group or character in unusual places for maximum effect.

Stories, performance, comment. We have a pandemic that is keeping us isolated at home so we can’t go outside to see theatre. Why should that stop the fearless Convergence Theatre ?

The audience of one or with a family receives six phone calls in one evening. For the most part you listen to characters ranging from lovers dealing with separation, a marriage on the rocks but with a bond, two high-school students coping with missing their friends and trying to be cool but responsible, blind-dating by phone, sibling rivalry, and trying to ease the anxiety of a lonely senior. The stories are poignant and hilarious. They cover a cross-section of ages, relationships, dealing with missing a loved one even when that love has gone so they think and even strangers reaching out in isolation for that personal connection. Julie Tepperman has beautifully captured the whimsy and depth of emotion that the characters are going through, and by extension, the audience.

Unlike a ‘regular’ review, I’m not listing the actors. That is best left a surprise until you have completed your own cycle of plays, and I urge you to participate in this adventure.  Two of the calls involve ‘audience’ participation. Don’t be scared—you have a script and all you have to do is read your part. It’s quite clear. Tepperman takes care of her audience as well as her actors. There are surprises—you might be asked to ‘engage’ when you don’t expect it. Step up. Engage.

I loved the complex effort of the whole endeavour. Trying to program what story was scheduled for what time must have been a Hurculean effort. It all seemed effortless. This is such a bold idea—phone plays for quarantine and bravo to all of the participants for engaging with such commitment and verve.

A few comments: it gets tricky if actors talk over each other. It’s hard to hear what you are saying. Sound and volume should be tweaked for best results so the ‘audience’ can hear the call clearly especially if participants are in different rooms using different phones. These are easily fixed; after all Convergence Theatre is doing the impossible, bringing us theatre by phone and making it meaningful and joyful. The Corona Variations is a wonderful accomplishment.  

The slots for this segment are sold out, but the company plans to have dates in May. Please click on the link below for more details.

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1 Esther May 30, 2020 at 7:04 pm

I just listened to Corona Variations. I must confess it was not because of your review, which I read after hearing the plays, but because I got an email directly from Convergence Theatre. It really was quite fun even though the emotions and feelings are now very familiar. There has been a lot on Zoom and YouTube etc and it was a very nice a personal feeling to have a phone call. When I am at the theatre (in the used to be real world) I was always willing to suspend my disbelief and accept the characters completely. Similarly, this felt like speaking with or listening to real people discussing their situation. I felt they were all diverse and authentic. Yes there was humour but I would have liked at least one skit to have had a more optimistic perspective or at least a more positive coping mechanism.
I have seen quite a few Convergence productions – they really are worth following, supporting and being grateful for their creativity.