By Ella Mizera
A new Pittsburgh-based theater group named “Corona Players TK” is debuting their first show this weekend.
The show, which is still untitled at the time of writing, is described as “an exploration of the human nervous system in these highly unprecedented times.”
“From email-writing to web-surfing, from Zoom meetings to Teams meetings, all of the activities of the modern millennial in the age of COVID are dramatized,” says director Leslie Goopenburg. This is Goopenburg’s first directorial adventure, as well as the stage debut of 80% of the cast. (The other 20% have never acted before in their lives.) “It’s an incisive look into the tedium and ennui of the everyman.”
Goopenburg, who also worked as stage manager, assistant director, marketing team, and cast exorcist, says the bags under her eyes are purely cosmetic. “The Corona Players don’t have the budget for Zoom Premium,” she confessed, so cast and audience members alike will be experiencing the show in forty-minute intervals.
I was lucky enough to sit in on a dress rehearsal (also the first rehearsal with the entire cast), featuring Makayla Malchanteur and Kyle Monotone. The entirely-improvised soundtrack, which is made up primarily of a capella singing over the three chords Goopenburg can play on the piano, almost approaches having a time signature about half an hour into Ms. Malchanteur’s seventeeth solo.
Instead of recording several takes to perfect their performance, the group prefers a “raw, connected” experience of watching nothing but their own faces for three hours straight. every techincal difficulty will be included “as an ode to the American Dream”.
“It’s really harnessing the power of technology in a way that no other theaters are doing,” says Monotone. “We’re like pioneers of the Zoom performance.” Another member of the cast, Nathan Bocaza, added: “Watching actors perform on-screen is an entirely new experience. Everyone wants to gather around the 13-inch screen and watch together, even though they’ll all be separate, unable to hear or see each other.”
“Where else besides Zoom can you see twenty-nine indistinguishable and unmemorable amateur theater groups perform their collaborative dramatic abortions?”
Mr. Monotone believes in the restorative power of theater. “After a long day of staring at screens for work and school, the first thing people want to turn to for entertainment is that same screen. Never gets old.” He also assured me that sitting alone on your couch is the “exact same experience” as going out to see live theater.
“In the end, you’re getting an even better deal: same level of professionalism, more convenience. We even charge the same!”