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Zooming “Invincible Summer”

July 5, 2021

Let’s face it: Zoom is not the ideal way to experience theatre. It is arguably not the ideal way to experience any form of communication, but this is now the world in which we live. Thus, it was not without some level of trepidation that I approached my first virtual play reading.

Don’t get me wrong: I was honored and excited to receive a call from theatre director/producer Dana Sachs. Dana said he had read my play, really liked it, and wanted to stage a reading using the actors from the Caravan Theatre Company of Cheshire, Connecticut to stage a reading on Zoom. He said he already had the actors in mind for the cast, and just needed my go ahead. The play had not been read by actors for nearly five years, and this was the first time there had been any activity about the play since my agent passed away last year from Covid-19. I enthusiastically said yes.

This was a far different experience than the last time a reading was staged for “Invincible Summer.” Previously I worked closely with the producer, was involved in the selection of the director and actors, and reserving the theater space. I also paid for the reading. Once Dana had my go ahead, he handled the casting, the technological arrangements, and the publicity. It was odd not to be involved, but also liberating to trust a professional to handle all of the details.

My trust was well-founded. Dana assembled an excellent cast: Mark Gilchrist, Christie Maturo, Olena Hodges, Allan Church, Frank Dicaro, Vickie Blake, Jack B. Levine, and Elizabeth Harnett. I was anxious about how actors would interact in such a format, not being in the same room, and never appearing on screen together. I needn’t have worried–the cast and director worked hard to ensure the play flowed and moved as seamlessly as possible. I was also impressed with how hard the cast worked on the details: getting into costume, collecting props, selecting backdrops from their screens that were germane to the setting and the characters. Each cast member dug deep to find the emotional core of each character, and revealed nuances I didn’t realize they had. It also revealed to me some areas of improvement that I needed to address in the play. In short, it was exactly what I had hoped for.

The invite with cast list to the play reading

After the reading, Dana received an email from a friend of his who watched the reading. She had this to say:

“I cannot remember if I told you, but [my husband] died in September 2020 after a rapidly and eventually very debilitating case of Parkinson’s. So the show had special meaning for me. I felt compassionately seen and deeply understood by the author. I think that [my husband] would have felt the same, had he been alive to see it. The show had me in tears, in a good way. It was a relief I certainly didn’t expect, but which I greatly appreciated.All my best wishes to the author. If this show is any evidence, he is a very impressive, deeply compassionate, and insightful person. And I thought the performances were just magnificent. They rang so true and honest. Of course, I know they had a wise, highly competent, and very intelligent director. You did a great job!This play and this production are a gift to all, but especially to those of who have either been directly affected by this terrible disease, or watched someone close go through it. Again, I cannot thank you and everyone else enough for all your efforts, and for sharing such a deeply moving work of art.”

As a writer, I don’t believe I have ever received a higher compliment.

There is more ahead for “Invincible Summer,” including another reading in August, and hopefully its stage debut in Brooklyn this fall.

In the meantime, if you’d like to watch a recording of the Zoom reading, it is attached below:

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