A woman appears on a computer screen and smokes a cigarette in a tiny London flat. She coyly asks if you’ve ever followed a stranger to a hotel room. In Australia, a bouncy blonde wearing what looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume pops up on a laptop, insisting she met you hundreds of years ago. Together, you have a plan to save the world. A third woman – a Romanian – shares a sad tale about her boyfriend, photographs and donuts.
This isn’t a private adult video chat you discover after accidentally clicking a link in a spam email. This is theater. Long Distance Affair, produced by PopUp Theatrics, takes the audience on a journey around the world. And you don’t even have to get on an airplane.
Creators and directors Tamilla Woodard and Ana Margineanu create intimate theatrical experiences for one person. Digital theater for one. Some of the performances are interactive, requiring audience members to engage with the character. Others are passive, offering a more traditional theater monologue. Each piece is more unpredictable than the previous.
With Long Distance Affair, Ms. Margineanu and Ms. Woodard partnered a director, a playwright and an actor to create eight minute bits of theater performed live from the actor’s own home. The audience views these performances via Skype from New York City’s The Gershwin Hotel. Here’s the catch (as if there wasn’t enough of one already): None of the creators live in the same country as their collaborators. In two weeks, they write, rehearse and perform the short plays. All over Skype.
“In Romania, the director is considered a god,” explained Ms. Margineanu. “In America, the playwright is god. In Russia, the actor is god. You can imagine what happens when three gods try to work together.”
Not only is it an experiment in form and process. It’s a test of endurance. Actors must perform the same eight minute piece up to 30 times in one evening – sometimes at 3:00am, if they live seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
PopUp Theatricals is devoted to unpacking the creator’s relationship with the audience. With their other major production, Hotel Project, PopUp again assembled international creative teams. In another exclusive performance, a lone audience member becomes a fly on the wall while a scene plays out around her or him.
Long Distance Affair runs through February 28, and tickets are limited due to the intimate nature of the event. Because of the staggered schedules and time differences of actor locations, audiences can attend multiple nights and might see different plays. Don’t think this is an entirely digital experience. There are analog elements that allow audience members to connect with the characters, too. Who knows? You might even receive a present from a new friend in another part of the world.