LANCASTER — The show will go on for the Antelope Valley College Theatre Arts Department with a virtual performance of playwright Danielle Weinberg’s “Murder, Party of Ten” today, Saturday and Sunday.
The comedic play is a murder mystery based on classics such as “Clue,” “Murder by Death” and Agatha Christie novels.
With the college campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Director Erika Newman conducted virtual auditions. Students and actors sent in audition videos and she cast the play from the videos.
“The casting just was wonderful,” Newman said. “Everyone really fit in their roles pretty quickly.”
However, one initial challenge she faced was blocking.
In theater, blocking or staging dictates how characters move from one side of the stage to the other, as well as their spatial relationship to each other. With a Zoom play, Newman had to figure out where to place the actor’s boxes on the Zoom panel. Luckily for her, the day she started blocking, Zoom updated its program, allowing the director to move the casts’ boxes around on the Zoom screen.
“They’re looking up, down, to the side,” she said. “It’s a fun kind of weird world that they’re in where they’re in the same room in the set, but they’re looking down at people.”
Newman recorded the play to be broadcast on YouTube.
“We used Zoom as our platform to play some jokes off of it,” she said.
The actors, in character, will a have live meet-and-greet prior to each show. Audience members will then get a link to watch the play. A second live Q&A will follow each show.
Weinberg adapted the script for the Zoom platform.
Newman used green screens to create the sets. A green screen allows a director to digitally add a background of choice.
“We inserted some cool virtual backgrounds that our producer found for us to kind of give you the feel that they’re in the same room,” she said.
First-time actor Fabricio Apuy Novella scored a lead role in the play as Detective Rufus. He not only had to learn how to act for the play, he also had to do it via Zoom.
“It was crazy, I won’t lie,” Apuy Novella said. “On top of acting, all the cast really had to be in charge of setting up their camera, the angle of their camera, the lighting, making sure their house was almost turned into a studio.”
He had to hang up the green screen in his house.
“As actors, it’s not really what you think you’re getting yourself into,” Apuy Novella said. “But now that it’s done, we’re just really proud of each other for going through it all. We just kind of understood that if we want to tell the story, this what we have to do.”
The actors wear costumes for their characters.
“Our designer Suzanne Wakefield did a great job of showing us their characters through their costumes,” Newman said.
She has directed plays before but never like this.
“We ended filming early November and now I’m just kind of waiting for the editors to finish up,” Newman said. “That’s the been the hardest thing for me.”
“Murder, Party of Ten” will be presented at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday via YouTube. All shows are free and open captioned.
There will be a live Zoom question-and-answer session with the cast, 30 minutes before each showing and a second Zoom Q&A immediately after the showing on each day.
Visit https://www.avc.edu/murder_party_of_ten to register.