Thursday, September 10, 2020

Backyard to Backstage and Back Again

How many times have we heard (or maybe even said), “Let’s put on a show!” It’s one thing to throw a few bedsheets over a clothes line and quite something else to engage in a full load-in at a brick-and mortar professional venue.  MDTC was invited to perform our Beyond the Image Suite in the Jamaica (Queens) Center for Arts and Learning’s Making Moves Dance Festival 2020, and also had to reschedule Linked by Tradition, our concert of Middle Eastern, Flamenco, and Indian dance that was cancelled in March.  So, what could we do when performing arts centers are still in COVID-19 shutdown mode and “the show must go on,” even in a virtual arena, as both of these concerts had become? 

Costumes for folkloric dance are as much a character on stage as the performers themselves, so performing the dances in costume was a must.  And, since the costumes are all stored at MDTC “HQ,” it was a given that somehow we all had to perform together.  But where, when, and how?  To answer those questions MDTC got creative, looked at the resources at hand, and found the answer in the driveway at HQ. 

How it all began

A 16x8’ dance platform of marley-over-3/4” plywood could be laid on the asphalt a few feet in front of the garage door.  A much smaller stage that what the dancers are used to, but that was as wide as the driveway would allow.  

Bob G. setting up the dance platform

The garage door opening would be fronted with a rear-projection screen, and the projector would be housed at the back of the garage, providing the needed distance from lens to screen to create the images necessary to the productions. 

Nick VH and Bob G securing the screen

Tech Director Bob Greenwald arranged for and calculated all necessary details. Performers and technicians consulted calendars, and Saturday, September 5 was chosen as our video day.  We all prayed for good weather.

The weather gods smiled on us.  September 5 arrived as a perfect late-summer day.  Everyone had committed to a 14-day quarantine prior to our getting together.  MDTC dancers, Samara Adell, Morgiana Celeste Varricchio, Kaitlin Hines-Vargas, and Danielle Hartman were “socially distanced” in dressing areas. 

Kaitlin and Danielle in their tent.

Everyone was masked throughout the afternoon's rehearsal, unmasking only to perform for the video. 

Kaitlin, Morgiana, Danielle on stage; Samara giving notes

Lighting Designer Nick Von Hagel, acknowledging that he and his equipment could not complete with the sun, recommended that we begin our video recording after sunset so projections would be bright and visible.  It would also give the marley (very hot under the sun) a chance to cool down.

Even the stage gets a break

After an afternoon’s rehearsal and a short supper break, we were ready to go.  Lights! Cameras! Action!  

Morgiana and Samara wait "in the wings"


We wrapped up the recording around 10pm. By midnight, all signs that the driveway had been anything but a driveway were gone.  Cinderella’s coach had turned back into a pumpkin, but the glass slipper, full of memories of a whirlwind day and the video (of course!), remained.

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