BEHIND THE SCENES: The Inner Workings of a Virtual Season
So how does a theatre company decide to delve deep into unknown waters and commission an entirely virtual season? We spoke with Artistic Director, K. Hernandez Friend, and Managing Producer, Madelyn Paquette, to find out why and how they tackled this feat at Moxie Arts NY.
MOXIE: So how did you all stumble upon this idea for a virtual season?
MADELYN: I think I speak for both of us at Moxie when I say that we both found ourselves pretty uninspired by Zoom readings during the first few months of the pandemic.
KAYLA: I second that wholeheartedly!
MADELYN: It's a fantastic platform for developmental work (and of course so many companies have found such innovative ways to use it since March 2020), but it didn't feel like a good fit as a new home for any of the shows or readings that we had to cancel that spring. It was especially disappointing, because it felt like we had really hit our producing stride with From A to Double D in January of 2020! In hindsight, I am so glad that we scheduled that show so early in the year; who could have known!
KAYLA: Also - just to add - we haven't forgotten about the shows in the canceled 2020 season! They will return!
MADELYN: Yes, of course - just a matter of 'when.'
KAYLA: When the pandemic hit, during the early months, honestly? It was hard to wrap our brains around what we wanted to do/where we could go from here. MADELYN: Moxie took a much needed hiatus. We had been in production, often on multiple shows at once, almost constantly since the fall of 2018. That break gave us the opportunity to refocus on how we were serving our artists in a way I'm not sure we could have discovered if we had kept up with that schedule.
KAYLA: We do have a tendency to run toward obstacles, *cough cough* the rep design of season 3 *cough*
MOXIE: So then when did the idea pop up for all-virtual? MADELYN: Well, I've always been really interested in thinking about what medium best fits a given story. Video games are another hobby of mine (and of course, like everyone in this streaming era, I watch a lot of TV), and so when I read a play, or watch an episode, or play a new game, I often think about whether that story is actually being served by the space where it's being presented. The idea for the Moxie Commission came out of that interest in the medium serving the story.
KAYLA: We weren't going to attempt something like "Zoom Oklahoma!" - been there, done that (briefly) and it didn't go well. Some things just aren't meant for a virtual space.
MADELYN: I've said a lot in the past ten months that while I'm sure plenty of theatres are doing incredible productions of Oklahoma! or Death of a Salesman on Zoom, I wasn't particularly interested in forcing a show written for the stage into a virtual box. The Moxie Commission was an opportunity to make work that was new, to make work that was supposed to be online, and to commit to our artists over a longer period of time during this era of uncertainty.
KAYLA: The point was to commission projects that felt like theatre, but were specifically built for a virtual space - so it's captured "live," or as live as it can be, takes are longer, there are still stage directions and such, we work with a stage manager and lighting designer, etc. MADELYN: Kayla and I had a Zoom call in September, basically because there was a grant deadline coming up and we figured we ought to have something to submit. Necessity is the mother of invention, I guess, because on that call we really figured out the details of what the Commission would be, and the rest is history. I really ought to find my original written notes and take a picture for posterity, ha!
KAYLA: Pretty sure it was something like, "find playwrights - film? tv? but theatre? new stuff. pay people" haha - it was definitely a quick collaborative process that really paid off in the end, as you can now see - the work that came out of this, and more than that - the friendships that came out of this - are absolutely stunning and invaluable. I think our choice to shift the focus to "artist investment" through the commission rather than "production investment" really served everyone well.
Want to check out the last of our virtual season? You can catch up on all 3 parts of the Moxie Commission by purchasing tickets here: https://moxie-arts-ny.ticketleap.com/the-moxie-commission-3/