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Thunder River presents final play of season virtually

"The Pink Unicorn" will be available to stream starting Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Carbondale native Missy Moore plays working-class widow Trisha in Thunder River Theatre Company's production of "The Pink Unicorn."

Thunder River Theatre Company’s final production of its 2019-20 theater season is a timely story about a mother in a conservative Texas town struggling with her teenage daughter’s sudden announcement that she is genderqueer.

“The Pink Unicorn,” a one-person play written by Elise Forier Edie, will be filmed without an audience in the Carbondale company’s theater, and then streamed online starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 12.

Carbondale native Missy Moore plays the mother — working-class widow, Trisha — in a reprise of the role that won her the Henry Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for Denver’s And Toto Too production of “The Pink Unicorn.”

“There really is a timeliness to this production because the piece is such a beautiful and funny and poetic way really speaks to how important it is that we all embrace each other for our shared humanity,” said TRTC Executive Director Corey Simpson. “We really see a mother struggle with loving her child for who her child is rather than what she envisions what she wants her child to be.

“It’s the perfect piece for anyone who has ever felt different. And it’s also the perfect piece for any of us who have struggled to love and appreciate people who are different from ourselves.”

The theater company had originally planned to close the season with the eight-actor play “Into the Breeches,” but soon after coronavirus restrictions were put in place, TRTC decided it would need to find some sort of alternative.

“Like many theaters in the country, I started looking at one and two actor productions, as that would allow us to do something that was safe and socially-distanced,” Simpson said.

A conversation with theater veterans Wendy and Bob Moore led Simpson to call their daughter, Missy, who told him she’d “love to do that production,” as all her other jobs in Los Angeles, where she lives, had been canceled.

Missy Moore recommended that Simpson contact director Susan Lyles — the founder of And Toto Too — to direct the TRTC production.

“We got Susan into a virtual meeting and started talking about ideas and soon enough we had decided that Susan would be able to virtually direct the piece from home in Denver with Missy doing rehearsals at a dance studio in LA,” Simpson said. “It became a completely virtual rehearsal process.”

The logistics of virtually performing a theater production moved TRTC away from their original plan of live-streaming the play to instead creating a high-definition recording of it.

“We really have high standards for the quality of what we want to produce for people who are paying to see theater,” Simpson said. “It’s still a live performance in our theater that we’re recording, but we want to be certain of the quality of the piece.”

Some of the changes TRTC has made for “The Pink Unicorn” include filming it as a proscenium production, meaning the audience is only on one side, as opposed to past TRTC plays that were three-quarters thrust productions where the audience is on three sides or in-the-round productions where the audience is on all four sides.

Another change is in how the stage is lit, with TRTC production designer Sean Jeffries using only about 20% of the light levels he would normally use.

“We’re trying to present an experience that is live theater on camera as opposed to creating something that feels like film,” Simpson said. “With film, you’re constantly shifting between your shots and your cameras, you’re doing close-ups and you’re pulling back. Here it’s much more similar to a theater-going experience where there’s not a lot of shifting happening.

“We have tried to stay true to the theater experience with this, even though it’s an on-camera experience.”

Tickets can be purchased at thunderrivertheatre.com, click on “tickets.” You will then be sent a password-protected link on which to watch the show.

jbear@postindependent.com


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