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New Haven Online Play Festival Takes Off

Quick Quarantined Play Festival

While certain public places are finding ways to reopen safely, theaters still have a long way to go. Socially distancing the audience is doable but probably not cost-effective. And what about the actors? Keeping 6 feet apart onstage could make for a bizarre evening of theater.

As a solution, one New Haven theater director has been hosting an online play festival that has attracted playwrights and actors from around the world.

It’s called the Quick Quarantined Play Festival, and it’s the brainchild of playwright, choreographer, director, and founder of Vintage Soul Productions, Sharece Sellem.

“I know a lot of theater people like myself feel restless,” said Sellem. “Being behind closed doors, not really able to go out, not being able to use our acting muscles. I decided that the only resource I had was the internet, so why not have actors and playwrights just come together and release theater online.”

Like live, in-person play festivals, Sellem is delighted that the Quick Quarantined Play Festival has fostered new collaborations and connections that will live on after the festival has concluded.

“They are forming relationships now and talking about doing further works in the future,” said Sellem. “There are more online play festivals bubbling up, and they are meeting each other in those groups and navigating this new, virtual world for theater.”

This play festival has a few twists. First, the setting of the play has to somehow be COVID-related. Take for instance, the play “First Day Jitters,” written by Matthew A. Everett and performed by Jacqueline Simone. It’s about an actress preparing for her first post-pandemic theater performance.

Second, the playwrights must incorporate 15 words provided by Sellem into their plays. Sellem said it could be random words or phrases, or the lyric to a song.

Finally, the “quick” part of the Quick Quarantined Play Festival -- writers have only 24 hours to write the play, and the actors have only 24 hours to perform it. Sellem said these plays are almost like a time capsule of what life has been like during the pandemic.

“It does feel like a time capsule because these stories that are being created are being created in real time. So, some are inspired by real-life events, and we have raw material to work with being in this situation.”

The online play festival has taken off, with 74 actors and 32 playwrights who have contributed so far.

“It’s become much bigger than I expected,” said Sellem. “We started off with just having Connecticut playwrights and actors, and now it’s global. We have folks involved from the U.K. and Canada. It’s been wonderful.”

To see all of the Quick Quarantined Play Festival performances, go to www.vintagesoulproductions.com/quick-quarantined-play-festival.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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