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In a time when we need theater most, Mirrorbox brings actors together online

Mirrorbox Theatre presents Out the Box: The Canopic Jar of My Sins

Friday, March 27 at 8 p.m.

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‘Ghost Light’ online reading, actor’s perspective. — Jo Jordan

Mirrorbox Theater is known for firsts. Iowa premieres. New writing. Topics that are tough. Shows that inspire conversations into the night, well after the curtain has fallen.

Friday night, March 20, was no different.

Earlier in the week, I saw that Mirrorbox’s Artistic Director, Cavan Hallman, asked on social media who had worked with the meeting platform Zoom. I offered to chat about it, since I use it regularly in my day job. After that short conversation, Hallman got busy. The result was the first Iowa reading — first Iowa virtual reading — of his play, Ghost Light.

I logged on to the Zoom link about five minutes before showtime. I air dropped my computer screen to my TV to create a theatrical feel, but I could have easily been lounging in bed or folding laundry while watching on my computer or phone. Before the show/reading began, those online chatted about what snacks and beverages they brought to the show. Hallman mediated the conversation, so that although I could see and hear everything he said, he was reading responses and questions from other audience members.

At 8 p.m., the curtain rose. The actors were introduced: Lauren Galliart as Bridget; Matthew James as Stevenson; Jo Jordan as the actress; Aaron Murphy as the director; Mike Spara as the actor. The screen then became the theater as, from the comfort of our homes, we all watched the actors inhabit their characters and the story come to life. It all felt very personal. It was cozy.

I had imagined this experience to be not unlike listening to an old time radio play or an audiobook, and I was not far off. The extra that you get in participating with a Mirrorbox reading is that you meet the actors prior to the curtain, and then you get to see and hear them become their characters. There is a particular intimacy to inviting the cast into your home. Each actor, including Hallman who served as narrator, was remarkable in their role. This wasn’t just a dry reading; the actors were, indeed, acting.

‘Ghost Light’ online reading, audience perspective. — Christina Kroemer

In Ghost Light, an acting company takes up residence in Stevenson’s apartment. Stevenson is the product of a religious upbringing and is not a man of the world. Murphy, as the company director, is at once demanding and humorous; Spara and Jordan play off each other interestingly as the actor and actress; and Bridget is Stevenson’s confused yet loving girlfriend. This play becomes surreal in the second act as the acting company takes over more than Stevenson’s apartment — it takes over his life.

The cast members and Hallman were in all Eastern Iowa with the exception of Spara, who joined the cast from New York City. They were brought together from their homes, via the Zoom platform, for this public online reading. As such, there was occasional lag time and variance in the sound quality between the actors. The reading halted twice for a technologically demanded reload.

Rather than being distracting, it was endearing. These actors and playwright had come together after one virtual rehearsal to provide theater in a time when we need it most. Audience members for the show hailed from Iowa, New York and Louisiana, among other locations.

The next reading is Friday, March 27, and Hallman said the scripts they will be reading as the series continues will come through a variety of sources, just as for the regular season shows.

“Audiences can expect this every Friday night at 8 for a while,” Hallman said. “We’d like to continue while we’re in this social distancing period.”

These events are free, but registration is required prior to the show. Mirrorbox has a donation button on their website, so show a little love when you log on. Follow Mirrobox on Facebook and Instagram, as well as at their website, mirrorboxtheatre.com, for full details on the next event.

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Mirrorbox has updated the old adage: “The show must go on(line),” and we are lucky to have them in our community.


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