Assistant Director: Amanda Gass Dramaturg: Joe Stephenson
Sound Design: David Boss
Photo Credits: Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy
A week after the 7 Towers Theatre Company’s livestreamed performance of Colleen Wagner’s 2009 play Down From Heaven, actor Steve Price commented to me, “there were moments […]when I felt like I was living in a Beckett play—isolated, wondering how my past had gotten me to the present moment: alone, unsure where this whole thing was going.” Price’s comment, while made in jest and at the completion of a process that was objectively a successful experiment with “live” mediated theatre performed over Zoom, resonates strongly for me as a director. In in-person rehearsals, we work to cultivate communities and relationships built on mutual respect and trust. In the middle of a global pandemic, those relationships—any relationships—take extra work and care to maintain. The care necessary in these situations grows exponentially when production work centers on the very topic that has caused so much anxiety and pain in the first place—a mysterious illness and the isolation of quarantine.
In April of 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, 7 Towers company member Suzanne Balling suggested that the company meet on Zoom to read Down From Heaven, the story of a wealthy family forced into quarantine by a mysterious pandemic and their former gardener, now a key player in the new security and surveillance forces that have gained power as the virus spread. The play, eerily predictive of what would befall the world in 2020, asks difficult questions about social divisions, privilege, and fear of the unknown. After the reading, we were struck by the ways in which Wagner gave voice to our own concerns and anxieties. The obvious choice, particularly for a company committed to exploring how space affects storytelling, was to “stage” this play about our fears of isolation and disease through Zoom the platform so many have turned to amidst the pandemic to work or to attempt connections with friends, family, and coworkers. It felt like an important story to tell, and one that could facilitate exploration of our own situation.
Hannah Adrian as Laurel and Stephen Price as Cheater