‘Three Viewings’ takes death, life head on from a first person perspective: CMC and Sopris Theater present a virtual play to the community
Many people are getting by these days in a numb survival-mode, carrying on with life while dealing with the tragedy of rising death tolls and the isolating nature of safety measures due to a worldwide virus.
“Three Viewings” provides an appreciated pause from our current state of living. The play allows audience members to let their guard down and brush elbows with characters who are being openly vulnerable as they tell their stories centered on a funeral parlor in Steubenville, Ohio. The performance likens itself to a Zoom call since it is only available through an online stream featuring one actor at a time. All that changes between acts are the types of flowers in a vase arrangement on stage right.
“We’re not doing live theater, we’re not doing film. We are just exploring our craft and we’re inviting an audience to join us in that exploration. What we’re really doing is we’re telling stories,” said Brad Moore, director of “Three Viewings.”
Moore is an adjunct professor for theatre at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) and is truly invested in keeping the performing arts going throughout COVID-19, as are cast members Mike Monroney who plays Emil in the first act, Paige Ulmer whose character is Mac in act two and Wendy Perkins who plays Virginia in the third and final act.
The streamed video is of a live run the cast did of the show all the way through. The shot is framed so it’s shoulders and up, and you’ll see emphatic hand gestures expressing joy or distress throughout the production, but the heavy lifting comes from each actor’s facial expression and the way they dictate their lines and act as these individuals coming to terms with the situations they’re in.
“We all did a really good job of sticking to that script and not paraphrasing and making it up,” Ulmer said. “Where some places in live theater you do have to barrel through and get through it, but we had the opportunity to really absorb this. In my opinion we were all pretty damn spot on in that effect.”
Moore said the camaraderie within a cast and crew is a driving force behind the motivation to act and put together stage productions in the first place. Rehearsals for the play primarily took place virtually, but Moore said he and the cast would link up once a week in addition to the one-on-one coaching he provided as director.
“(We would) get together as a group to support each other and listen to each other’s progress… because that’s what we want as theater people, we want to be part of this family. We don’t want to be sitting in our own bedrooms going ‘I don’t know if anybody else exists,’” Moore said.
Emil, Monroney’s character, is the funeral director entangled in unrequited love. When he recounts moments he has shared with Tessie and the way she makes him feel, his eyes light up in pure excitement. Yet as Monroney’s act continues, we see a man filled to the brim with optimism all fueled by “what could be,” crumble bit by bit until he is no longer able to sit in denial.
“Everybody has suffered a loss, everybody has loved someone that hasn’t returned their love, everyone has been scarred by the tragedies of their past, self-inflicted or otherwise…Every good piece of writing, every good piece of theater helps us explore and learn about these universal truths of the human condition and each of us as individuals,” Monroney said.
Ulmer and Perkins play an estranged daughter and newly widowed woman respectively, and take on their characters with a conviction that makes their losses tangible, their triumphs and coming to terms with their realities come to life.
“I was blown away by how great Paige and Mike were from the beginning, we really got to watch each other’s progress by getting together,” Perkins said.
A decision to buy a ticket and stream “Three Viewings” is more than a way to support theater in the valley — it provides an intimate window into three different lives. The production is interactive in the sense that as it plays out there will be more and more snippets to resonate with the personal histories of every audience member.
“Anybody will find some level to relate whether it’s extreme or it’s minor they’ll find a way to connect with the piece in a way that they can without us having to, you know, force it upon them,” Ulmer said.
– Tickets can be purchased here for $13-$18
– Show dates are Feb. 19, 20, 26 and 27 and March 5 and 6 promptly at 7 p.m., and Feb. 21 and 28 and March 7 at 2 p.m.
– Season ticket holders can call 970-947-8177 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request their tickets
– Post-show moderated conversations for all ticket holders will be hosted on Zoom immediately following the shows on Feb. 19 and Feb. 27 at 8:45 p.m. and March 7 at 3:45 p.m.
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