YBY ep 249 : Rebecca Bernstein and building community through Zoom Shakespeare!
This week on Yes But Why, we chat with Rebecca Bernstein, producer of Zoom Shakespeare Productions.
Rebecca Bernstein is a Houston based actor/director/producer. She grew up doing theater classes for kids and worked several summers as a camp counselor at various theater camps around the city. After graduating with a theater degree from St Edward’s University in 2011, she spent a summer as the theater specialist at the Chicago JCC’s CAMP CHI. Since then, she has been acting and directing with several companies in Houston.
Some of her recent acting credits include Theresa De Lamballe in Sankofa Collective’s Marie Antoinette, Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie at Pasadena Little Theater, and Actor in 154 Sonnets with Boiling Point Players. Her directing credits include Angel Street and Alice in Wonderland at The Company Onstage, The Betrothal at The Landing Theater and The Grapes of Wrath at Houston Theater Company. She has appeared in several short films, has appeared in Pronoia Theater’s Magical Lying Hour and is a cast member in Houston’s murder mystery show; The Dinner Detective.
Rebecca was set to open “The Glass Menagerie” at Pasadena Little Theatre when the coronavirus pandemic hit and her plans were halted. In March of 2020, she got a few friends together to do a Zoom reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and put it on YouTube. Since then, Zoom Shakespeare Productions has done over 45 virtual performances with actors from around the world!
In our conversation, we talk about teaching theater to kids and the emotional journey of a child actor. We talk about how early Rebecca’s love for Shakespeare began – she was 12 when she performed in her first Shakespeare play! (What?! Amazing!) We talk about covid’s effect on our creative drive. Rebecca talks about building a worldwide community of performers online with Zoom Shakespeare Productions. This is a great conversation about creating art and pulling something positive out of the darkness.
Support Rebecca Bernstein and Zoom Shakespeare Productions by checking out Zoom Shakespeare’s upcoming shows:
February 26th, 27th and 28th at 8pm central — Zoom Shakespeare Productions: Othello (the second collab with past guest Alric Davis’s theater, The Sankofa Collective)
February 13th at 8pm central — Zoom Shakespeare Productions: SECOND MISCAST MONOLOGUES
You can also watch the most recent performance, Zoom Shakespeare’s 50th show – The Taming of the Shrew!
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com to join in on the fun.
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
This episode of Yes But Why is also sponsored by PodcastCadet.com. Go to PodcastCadet.com and put in offer code YBY20 to get 20% off your first consultation!
(production notes: recorded phone call via Rodecaster on 1/4/2021. Sorry SO Sniffly!)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners, this is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Yes But Why episode 249 – my conversation with Houston based actor/director/producer, Rebecca Bernstein But first, let’s talk about our sponsors. Today’s episode is sponsored by audible. Get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY. Did you know they have podcasts on audible? Gosh there are so many options here. I gotta check these out … but first I should finish recording this intro. Audible is available on most of the devices in your home, certainly in mine. Go now to audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY to download the app and sign up to get your free audiobook today. Today’s other sponsor is my company, PodcastCadet.com. My husband, Chris and I run the company, PodcastCadet.com. We provide advice and production help to any podcaster who needs it! We can give you a little push or we can help you with the production of all of your podcast episodes! Contact us now at PodcastCadet.com and use code YBY20 to get 20% off the first service or workshop you buy! This week I talk to Rebecca Bernstein. Since March 2020, Rebecca has built a worldwide community of performers online with Zoom Shakespeare Productions. Since their first reading, Zoom Shakespeare Productions has done over 45 virtual performances with actors from around the world! In our conversation, Rebecca and I talk about Shakespeare (obviously), how much we miss live theater, and covid’s effect on our creative drive. This is a great conversation about creating art and pulling something positive out of the darkness. I now present to you: yes but why episode 249 Rebecca Bernstein and building community through Zoom Shakespeare! Enjoy! I’m Amy Jordan. And this is Yes But Why Podcast. Yeah.
My parents, I can tell the story that I have. And there’s several of these little moments. But one of the first was I was in pre K. And my mom got a call from a very concerned pre k teacher. And she told my mom, you know, we were going around the circle at circle time. And we were asking all the kids what they wanted to be. And you know, most of the kids said they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer and Rebecca were actually really concerned she wants to be a mermaid. And like that, I mean, that was that could have hold anyone right there that are your performers. You know, of course my mom sounded totally entertaining, because like, that’s not something to be worried about. But it was it. Like little little performer, Rebecca Bernstein brain was like, Yeah, I don’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor, I want to be a mermaid. I would say you you have a three year old, you could probably like totally hear one of the kids in this class or whatever saying that.
I think it didn’t say that the teacher was so like, worried about it, like,
um, and then you know, there’s some other there’s some other things like that. I was an interesting little kid, like, the time when my kindergarten teacher asked us because we were doing the dramatization, school plays, which aren’t really a thing anymore. Were really popular in the 90s. Like, every kid had to get up there and do a line. And we were doing Old Mother Hubbard. And the teacher asked, Does anybody have a dog costume? I didn’t, but for some reason five year old me was like, I want to be the dog. So I raised my hand. And my parents proceeded to buy me a costume so I could play the role of the dog.
I love I can’t wait, like like, the best part is the conversation between the teachers. Like I can’t wait to have this conversation. Where they’re like, What do you mean? She said you had a dog costume? Well, we don’t but I guess we’ll get with
the fact that my parents Yeah, didn’t say Rebecca you need to go back to school and say you don’t have one night You’re lying. Let her throw like Well, here we go. Guess Yes, we’re gonna get her dog cost.
Well, they were fine with the dog costume. I mean, once you had gotten over the early aspirations of being a mermaid They’re like, well, at least it’s a dog. I mean, it’s at least is a land based animal. Now, you know, it’s worth actually.
Well, I’m open to mermaids. I haven’t seen the whole ocean.
There’s a lot of it. True. Yeah. And like every every culture has their own idea of a mermaid, you know, a half woman, half, half fish does make you wonder, you know, maybe at some point, right, it was just a manatee that horny guy thought was a woman. Oh, well. Look at manatees,
you know, maybe
a man. say they’re adorable. Yeah, who knows? Who knows? We just don’t know. Let that imagination continue. Don’t squelch it. You are all right. If you want to be a mermaid, you can do it kids.
Or a dog, even if you don’t have a costume.
So were the play, you know, doing in school? Just the like, everybody had to do them kind of situation. Or
Yeah, everybody had to like? Like, I remember I herot Elementary here in Houston, Texas. You know, I don’t think they do this at many elementary schools anymore. But I think that I remember being a thing in the 90s where like, you would do your school play. And like every class, maybe it’d be like the fifth grade school play or the kindergarten, school play. And every class would do a little presentation. I don’t know if every kid had to speak. But like, at least like a handful of kids in the class.
You know, I didn’t know me. But I grew up in Houston. Houston is a big old place. True. But you know, Boston, there were very few people I did theater. But more as a like after school hangout scenario, really was like a, you know, organized school thing. I mean, I remember being a brown crayon and kindergarten, but that’s different.
Oh, there you go. That was your dog in the home. That was your dog costume? Well, it was the brown crown.
Sure, sure. But I don’t think like other. I don’t think other classes saw my kindergarten play. And it wasn’t that big a deal. Like, I didn’t get her again until high school. And I didn’t I didn’t go to the regular public high school. I went to the private school to private all girls school so that we did theater at the boys school to meet boys. So
Oh, okay. Yeah. You know? Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, I think, I think, you know, those little early moments of kindergarten and stuff, like getting that kind of. And then, you know, hearing laughter and applause because of what you’re doing on stage. Like, for some kids, I think is terrifying. And then for others, like myself was just kind of invigorating. And I was like, Oh, my God, that’s because of what I’m doing. Wow, I like that feeling. I mean, I’m the youngest of three. So the young. Yeah, the younger, the youngest, tend to be the more dramatic one. Sure, sure.
Well, you have to work harder to get attention. By the time a person has three kids. They’re just like, yeah, he’ll be fine.
Where’s the baby?
I don’t know. If it’s alright. I’m not alone. friends have multiple children.
Or they’ll get the Oregon they’ll get the one who’s slightly older to ask to say how the baby’s doing. Like, what’s the baby doing? He’s trying to walk mom. Okay.
Do you want to watch this should be fine.
My sister apparently good. Apparently, one time told my mom that she didn’t want to tell her what I was doing anymore. You know, because mom was like, okay, what’s Becca doing? And my sister who’s three years older than me was like, I don’t want to tell you anymore. Sorry. Wow.
That’s intense defiance, and very, very smart. The alderwood
Oh, she’s a lawyer now. Oh, yeah.
So where’s your school? always very theatrical. Like did you do plays every single year all the way through.
So I at Heritage, which is public? I want to say they did like, it was kind of like that were like they would have they would have like a presentation, I think once a year. And it would be like one, a group of kids from every class. From what I remember, I mean, it was like, it wasn’t like, you know, a whole play. It would just be like, you know, five minutes of kids acting out a story and I think it was just for parents and other staff. Remember, I’m not so much in front of other kids. But yeah, that’s interesting.
Huh? Do you were involved in this kind of thing? Did you? Since it was so regular to you? Did you think of it as like exciting and fond or was just like another class?
Oh, that was my favorite part. And like I, I, my parents put me into like, hit, which is here in Houston. And it’s like a musical theater program. And I did that for a while, but I was doing theater after school. Like, it was part of my life. And like, I think I discovered that passion really, really early on.
Tell me Yeah, harder.
Oh, gosh, well, my mom’s was there. Um, I I am someone who’s been blessed, slash cursed with a love for musical theater, and not a great year. So I will sing along to that to the entire score of lemmas. It might not be great, though. That’s the issue. But you know, when you’re when you’re eight years old, yeah. Yeah. But when you’re eight years old, it’s like, sure. Put my kid in the musical. And that was really cool, too. I think music was something that I’m better at it now than I was. But like, there’s some people who can do all three, you know, sing act dance. I definitely now in my 30s have the acting down. But yeah, I mean, I loved it Even so, like, I just love doing it. And like dancing and you know, being part of a big musical, and the budget, there was really cool. Hey, yeah, absolutely. Like, sometimes these kids theater get more money than then like a community theater with people working really hard.
Well, yeah. Because you can show off cute little kids and people like, I’ll give money to the kids. They give more money to those programs than they do to their public school system.
I mean, you know, it’s an odd scenario, the way money gets parsed out, you know, sometimes it’s not really for the people who need it. But that being said, Yeah, big budget on musical theater is always fun. And then it means also that you have really great teachers. Did you stick with that program for a while? Or were you like, no, I really want to get into straight plays and acting?
I think, I think yeah, I think I think straight plays mapping seems more like interesting to me. Um, so I did, I did a lot of Main Street theater, kids, their kids program. They had a great kids program in the early 2000s, late 90s. And I did a lot of stuff with them. They did, I was in like, I mean, talking about Shakespeare, I didn’t. I played EGF, the Father, the evil father and Midsummer Night’s Dream. When I was about 12, they do great work over there. basically putting, you know, I think they start at like four, and then go up to like, 18. And they put kids and you know, I think it’s mostly straight plays. But they do like a rehearsal performance. I think it’s six weeks, maybe it used to be at least. But yeah, that was my first exposure to doing Shakespeare. And I was like, 12 ish. And, of course, you know, every girl wants to be Titania fairy. And they’re like, here, your easiest Hermes, Hermes evil father, and you know what? Like, that was the beginning of me as a character actor.
Hey, why not? Right? Fill in the character you can play, he can play any role better with the gender age as long as you can find your way to developing a character. Right.
So you got really involved? What was it called Main Street theater, that’s really great that you were able to, you know, get involved. And I love this idea that they’ve got kids as young as four, you know, going up and being on stage. I think the reason why they usually put kids in musical theater is because they think they’re gonna, like, more easily jive with music, then, you know, trying to Yeah, and understand this kind of stuff. But I think that some people just kind of have it in them. Like I mentioned earlier that my kiddo and I watch a lot of Pixar movies. He literally quotes them like constantly. So like, watch the movie, he acts out the whole movie in front of me multiple times.
Like he has a performer Jane doesn’t a Oh, yeah,
I mean for sure. I mean, though, I mean, I would say that every dude I’ve ever met ever quotes movies, so I’m not gonna hurt him as a performer just yet. But there are moments that he does that are like the full emotional like situation and you’re like, what, how are you doing this? Like, I don’t know how he understands it, but maybe emotion Trump’s music, you know, maybe they’re like, Oh, I understand what’s going on in this scene. Because I understand what the emotion is, you know,
I don’t know. What’s his favorite?
What’s his favorite Pixar movie?
Pixar movie? Yeah, who?
That’s a hard one. We usually go for like, whatever current so we’ve been watching Seoul a lot. But um, okay. But I would say the movie that we’ve watched, the most of all of them is probably Toy Story. He’s a big Woody. And also, there’s four of them. So it’s easier. You can watch all of them and not feel like oh my god, the same movie over and
over. Right? Yeah.
But he’s into those characters. That’s probably his main character that he does all the time. He’ll do
what they really. I don’t know what their recipe is. Pixar. But I don’t know how they can dish it out again and again and make four year olds cry and 40 year olds cry like, no joke. I will go see a Pixar movie when it comes out. And I will probably be crying by the end. I don’t know how they do that to reach to reach tiny kids and and grownups. Like they hit that they hit that button, that nostalgia button, I guess or the emotion button. I don’t know how they do it.
I just don’t even understand how little kids process it. So like the idea yet? You know, like I liked performing but I don’t know that I knew that performing was performing. But you had been doing theater like on stage theater since you were a little so you were like aware that you know shows were shows that you were performing her role? That kind of thing? I mean, heck, Shakespeare at 12? Are you kidding me? I didn’t understand that. 24 nevermind the experience? How did you get into it? And like, I don’t know if you could remember where you were your mindset was at this point, but like, did you totally understand what you were talking about? Did you like get into this? Like, I’m performing a role? So I’m going to do this and that, like, How did it feel for you? If
you could remember, I think I think it was just play an elevated playing pretend, you know, you can still see kids and I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen this with your theory, three years when he’s pretending to be Superman or woody or buzz. They are it like, tiny kids, when they’re on the playground? Who I’m Spider Man, they think like they are for that moment. If there’s any it was, so I feel like for me, it was like this elevated just playing for kids. Um, in terms of in terms of Shakespeare, I think it was they had some script that was like, slightly translated, so that the kids would actually have some more of an understanding of what they were saying, Oh, god,
I mean, no, I
know. Nothing. Shakespeare needs to be obtuse or whatever. But like, the idea that someone read through, I know what he needs to say is, you know,
like, I don’t know if he’s ever read no fear Shakespeare, which is the modern day translation. So let’s say, you know, like, for Seuss, where our sound and be like, Hey, where are you? And this is side by side.
Like the cliffnotes. But for Shakespeare,
yeah, yeah. Yeah. And it that gets really funny sometimes. Because, like, as we can, as you get into some of the, like, raunchy jokes. It’ll say something like, you know, in parentheses. This is a very dirty joke that Shakespeare is making.
Does it just say that it doesn’t tell you what the joke is.
But it’s like a preface almost was like just saying, you know what you’re about to me.
That’s so funny. I legitimately would have leaned hard on the idea of like, cultural, timely idioms. Like,
oh, you know,
this is how they said, like, Hey, don’t do that to me. But really, it’s like about, like, putting somebody in the butt, you know, and it’s like, you know, you don’t have to say, what’s the just like, what does it mean? You know, you know, like, we all have phrases that we say that mean something different, and they’re terrible things we should not say. But if you’re like, Well, I didn’t mean that. I met this thing. You know.
I didn’t mean bro. I meant. Yeah.
Have you said the other thing that’s super funny about Shakespeare and I we can totally get into it. Cuz you are focused on Shakespeare, and that’s what your main production is now in your acting career and your producing career. But like, I like to think of Shakespeare, like, like a frat guy who wrote a bunch of really funny, like, plays for his friends. And they were like, dude, you should show me the other people. What? No, the Yeah, yeah, it’s so funny. Just because it’s like, we heighten it now. But like, you’re right, if you read the what it means. It’s a very, like, two guys are in a fight. And they’re like, no better. No. Better.
stab, he stabbed that guy. You shouldn’t have stabbed him.
I’m gonna tell you. Like,
what is this show about? Right? It’s like a reality show. And, and I always think like, people are making a real highfalutin, but this is kind of like the every man’s stories. They’re just in a language we don’t speak because, well, we’re not from there. Like, you know, what are your thoughts on, on how Shakespeare plays to the audience and, and what you get out of it.
It’s interesting. I, when I started listening Shakespeare at the end of the beginning of quarantine, I was just kind of like, oh, it started no joke with like, let’s I’m gonna get some friends together. And we’re gonna do Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was like late March, when there was this new thing called COVID. That was shutting everything down. And you’re like, wait, that’s the thing that was in China. Okay, now it’s here. Great. Cool, not good. And then, you know, everything was shut down. And I got some funds together to do to do midsummer. And then we, then we did much ado about nothing the next week, and then we did Macbeth, and then so on, and so on, and so on. And we’re almost done with the cannon, at this point here, and well, it’ll be February when people are listening to this. But honestly, what I kind of feel like it’s been something that I’ve been trying to do through this group is really take away all of the grandeur that we put around the text. Because there is even even a snow people aren’t going to be or not to be anymore. There’s still good sacredness that a lot of people approach it with. Yeah. When really, as you were saying, it’s just dudes talking. Sometimes they’re talking, they’re fighting over a woman. Sometimes they’re making sex jokes. Like, I, I want it when one of the things I’m trying to do is take away some of the, the sacredness and just make it conversational. You know, this is how these people these plays are written, this is how these people are talking. You know what I mean? Yeah,
there? Are you doing readings with people who have experienced doing Shakespeare? Or are you like directing actors for a couple of weeks, and then presenting a reading of it with the work done?
Well, so we do it every week, mostly every week, but we usually have one rehearsal. And most of the people who are involved have some experience with Shakespeare, but we’ve had people who have never done anything with it before. And yeah, it’s all read. And it’s readings. But if they’ve kind of now become like, reading slash virtual performances, it’s kind of a combination. But it’s just been that’s been really interesting to and to see, like, we’ve we’ve done a lot of like playing with it and been like, Okay, well, this weekend, we’re doing a Western production of two noble kinsmen. Way to do a Western production of one of one of the lesser known, not as good shows, that was really fun. And everyone was doing accents. But that’s been really cool during this during this time in our lives, where we’re all stuck at home. If you’re smart, then you’re not then you’re not gathering in large groups. And it’s been interesting to create all of this and we’ve gotten people involved from across the world, like people in it from the UK and Russia and Canada, who we’ve got in our shows now, people who you know, you never would have we never would have connected with otherwise.
Yeah, zoom theater has really brought together the international community. Like I’ve met people from all over the world and just chatted with them. You know, the interesting thing about us all going through this all at the same time, is that you can talk to somebody In Russia, or India or Norway and be like, Hey, man, COVID am I right? And then I get stuck in my house and my wife, like, you know, like, it’s, everybody’s got the same thing going on. So we have that base reality that we can now become friends on top of, you know, it’s like, well, we all go to college or you all have a job together, the base reality of like your work, or the base reality of school allows you to connect now. It’s like we all are aware of this thing that’s happening. And we can talk to strangers, and we have this thing to be like, Hey, how are you? I mean, how are you right now with this? Like, it’s like, and we’re able to connect with people? How did the people in your family connect with you?
friends of friends. It’s interesting. I think there are a few there are about eight Shakespear groups that are doing similar things that I know of around the world. So there’s like a couple people in the UK who are doing the Shakespeare readings every week. And there’s a couple people, there’s a woman in Russia who, who does them every week. There’s there’s a die in New York who has been doing kind of similar things. And so there’s been this weird, like, it’s the seedy underbelly underbelly of Shakespearean theatre. It’s not that sad. I don’t think
it’d be beside a CD as Shakespeare already was,
which can be at that moment. Yeah. Um, but I, gosh, I think I posted on Reddit, at some point very early on, I was like, hey, if anyone wants to join us, we have this Canadian actor, Alex goldrich, who’s done shows with us since April. And He’s incredible. And that was just like, because I posted something on Reddit like, it’s like you were saying, It’s fascinating, because we all have this one thing in common, where no one really wants to go out and hang out with their friends in a closed area still. So we’re all in our homes. And, you know, this goes for everything. Like all the zoom theater that I’ve seen, it’s just it’s just amazing how people have gathered together and even from a international point.
Yeah, it’s really bringing people together, especially because, you know, with theater, where we would be in large groups in on stage and stuff, that our industry will be the last to come back. You know, like, it’s not gonna be sad, you know, but it definitely it’ll be the last thing Woods theater is back. We’re all right.
Amy like, yeah, and as much as I’ve been working on this, like, everybody misses it. It like I did a I’ve done a little bit of stuff, like, that’s been filmed and then live streamed and it was so depressing, not being able to hang out with my classmates afterwards and go get a drink with them. Like, because that’s such a, that’s such a part of it for me. And for I think a lot of people is community. Yeah, I
used to love I’ve done a couple of commercials. And my favorite part is just the hanging out. Like, I’m like, Oh, I get to do a commercial. And the best part is people will be like, I do a lot of stuff where it’s like, oh, it’s a random drug commercial, or like, Oh, it’s for this business, and I never see it, right. So my whole experience is just hanging out with the cool people that I get to do scenes with or not, and just be like, ooh, what do you do? Tell me everything. Oh, do you live in town? Oh, that’s so fun. So I yeah, I’ve been lost for my social interaction.
So what? What commercials are these are now I’m curious.
Oh, I mean, like, like I said, I did one that was like a, like, a new diabetes thing that like checked your blood on the fly and like, and I all the things that I do these commercials for? I don’t always interact with the product. You know, like for a while I did. My first commercials were for Grod day internet. And they were all just joke commercials. And it was about like, they the employee of Grod day was supposed to help these people who were crazy. And they were like, help me with this. And he’s like, Okay, I’m really here to tell you about the internet. They’re like, Listen, we get the internet help us with the BS or whatever. You know. So most of the commercials I’ve done have nothing to do with what they are. advertising for sure. And a friend of mine. Speaking of commercials during COVID, a friend of mine did a career And played all the parts. So it was like about a new computer thing, where like, there is a person where it was like she’s organizing her work using this new Ammar, and then she calls for the help desk. And the help desk is her but a different costume and a different character she’s. So they only got one actor, but then they got like two sides of a conversation in that in that scenario. So she did the whole one side. And then she went did the whole other side, right. And it was like, Wow, that’s so wild. Like the things that they’re doing to adjust the way that they’re trying to figure out how to bring it back. And I feel like film is a lot easier. Because there you could certainly have fewer people in the room. When you do film a lot of the work is after. So it’s like, Yeah, we got three people in the room with these five people who are on in the seed. But the work is after when they then get the footage and they’re like, Okay, so those people don’t all have to be there, and whatnot, and they keep the makeup people separate the costume people separate. Now, it’s like, the village is not super tight. Instead, it’s like you walk all the way over there to the makeup to the walk over there to get your costumes because they keep everybody a little spot.
And even that’s a little bit isolating, you know, cuz it’s like, but I wanted to hang out. I want to talk to both people. Yeah, I wonder, you know, and then actors are separated, of course. Yeah. And
the other thing is they discourage you from like chatting, like my uncle’s an actor. And he, he said that when they’re in the makeup chair, they’re like, Don’t talk. Like, don’t open your mouth. Don’t like just let them use your face as a canvas, don’t have a conversation, and then walk away. So just to keep the like breathing to a minimum, even though it’s like breathing. Don’t breathe, or, like me having trouble breathing right now. But But yeah, I mean, it’s been different. But I want to bring it back to you and your experience in Shakespeare. Were you doing Shakespeare full time before that? Is that why you were inspired? No to Shakespeare.
So I was, um, I mean, I’ve dabbled in it. I’ve done I’ve done quite a few Shakespeare shows. But I I was doing a production of The Glass Menagerie at Pasadena Little Theatre, which is one of the Houston suburbs. And my friend Eric Davis, incredible director of directing. And I was playing Laura. And we were in tech when the shutdown happened. So we were it was everything closed? March 15. Yeah, and we are going to open it was like maybe March 17 or so we were going to open the 20th. And I think there were a couple other some friends of mine too, who were in who did shows where it literally closed, they closed or we’re about to open and couldn’t. But yeah, you know, I started. I’ve always been interested in and I’ve always had a love for it. Um, but it’s interesting, like, I’m not I’m not classically trained in it. It’s just something that I love. And it’s been interesting to also like, then connect with people who are classically trained. Or I’m like, oh, okay, so that’s okay, so that’s, that’s how you speak that that speech?
Are you loosely organizing it and getting people together to do it? Or are you directing it? And like leading people through like, you mentioned the no fear Shakespeare? Are you like leading people through the script to be like, this is what you’re saying? This is what you mean in this moment.
More so now than in the beginning. In the beginning, there’s a lot of just okay, here’s my, here’s our cast, you guys never gonna do we’re gonna make it you know, postmodern, or apocalyptic. And then people showed up, showed up and did it. Now that we’ve kind of that we’re so far into, that it’s not new anymore. Like at the beginning, I was like, a virtual virtual theater. What even is that? Like? Imagine if somebody mentioned virtual theater to you last year, you would have or in? last last year 2019 you would have been like, what is that?
I know I hated using zoom previous to it became very good. So in my life, I was I refused it. It was a big podcasting thing. I was actually at a podcasting conference when, when the trouble really started, and I was afraid I was gonna be stuck in Florida.
Oh, and that was hit badly. Yeah.
Right. Yeah, I will kind of always but but yeah, I mean, like, I was worried for a while. And podcasting was you know, we were I was I had gone to a huge conference with hundreds of people. You know what I mean? I had just come through it. My husband works in conferences, right? We spend all this time with like big crowds of people. And he uses at my husband does conventions, they use zoom, you know, in their meetings and whatnot. Previous, but I was still a holdout in the podcasting community. People like zoom is good. You should use your mic. No, it’s not really my cup of tea. Now, it’s like, gosh,
it is barely a company, right?
I mean, I don’t even know how to call 2019 self and tell him to buy her stock in zoom. I like legitimately thought about it March, I was like, sure this stock and I should have, but like, just because it was like, how did we all just decide a kreiner earth to use this one thing? And I mean, God bless them. I kudos to the Xoom people for, like, not only maintaining they because like when the earth uses your app, that’s some server effort, right? Like that. We were all even able to do it is insane. Right? So they had to have been like rushing around plugging in servers and trying to get everything going, like, do we have the bandwidth for everyone to use this? Like, I don’t know, you know,
and this app that I’ve done it, I don’t think. And it’s amazing, like I had never even heard of it until until everything shut down. But it’s perfect. Like media, like the way that you can kind of play with it. And and you know, the backgrounds and you know, people turning their screens on and off to enter or exit a scene. It’s kind of perfect.
Yeah, I do love it. I mean, it, it is fun to see things happen. I’ve watched a few things, you and I were part of that magical line, our show. Yeah, and wanted to be part of. And then I’ve done a few readings with my, I teach private writing classes. And so when they get a script that’s fully done, I give them a reading, I get actors together, and do a reading for them that has been really great to like, have something that I can give a performance that I can give sort of like a recital for my writing students during this time and picking up teaching private writing tutorials has been my COVID thing. I was not doing it beforehand, but now I’m like, hey, great, what can I do for you? And now that I’ve taught a few people, I have a hang on what to do, like how to get people to do their work and how to get people involved and stuff like that. So I don’t know. It’s, it’s really interesting to use zoom for creating theatre. And it is an interesting way to communicate to the audience, right? Like, it’s, it’s like, we’re all figuring it out, you know, like you’re doing the theater, like when you see somebody on a stage, they’re far away from you. They’re like, hired on you, right? But when you’re looking at zoom, it’s like, democratize like we are all together, you know, little box,
like and it’s interesting, because the way that the medium is kind of and I’m sure you know, you felt this doing readings to where it’s, it’s like this hybrid between stage and film as a medium because it’s if you’re sitting down, it’s literally your face and your like, your neck and maybe chest. Like it’s so close. So there’s so many like more intricacies and it’s been interesting to see how people have adjusted to that as well. Yeah,
everyone’s had to become a toady film actor.
Yes, yes. Because you know, in the beginning, we were all new to this. Everyone will be really big. And then and then and then you’ll see you see the progression of people like scaling it down and becoming more intimate in moments. You don’t have to project because the kid the mics literally right there.
In fact you should IT project
Because then, like the sound, it’s not a perfect Meteor, but at the same time, so you start yelling, the the sound will glitch out. Yeah. Have you noticed that?
Yeah, it’s like it’s always trying to fix and you’ve got like 70 different people plugged into Zoo with, like different views clicked in in their settings. So it’s like messing trying to adjust with everybody. It’s hard though, like you think yelling would be important, both in theater and meetings. You know, if you’re a boss, and you’re like talking to your whole group, you’re like,
What is going on? Oh, God. Hello, Amy. And then there’s the other issue, which is people muting themselves, the number of times when I’ve had when people it’s people line because, you know, I tell everybody, okay, mute yourself and turn your camera off when it’s not your turn. And then they keep themselves muted. So it’s, so it’s like, then they come on with this amazing, you know, grand entrance and then open their mouths and I have to click they asked to unmute asked to unmute. Or, or people not needing themselves and going into the bathroom and having conversations with their spouses in the background. I again, I can’t wait to get back on.
We’re all just trying to act with our children close to us.
And it’s difficult this way.
You know, I was trying to do this. Oh, man. So now that you’ve done Shakespeare for a while, isn’t it like the thing you’re into now? Like, like, are you going to really dig into doing more Shakespeare even when you can go on stage?
I have felt like there have been so many amazing casts that we’ve we’ve done in this group, including former into interviewee Steven Saltzman, Edward the second, which is Marlo but he’s an incredibly, he tells himself short he’s an incredible, like, serious actor as well as being a hilarious improviser Aaron to Aaron, Aaron and Steven or my Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when we did Hamlet. And they were it was a it was at so they were playing it like, like Beavis and Butthead kind of was perfect. But, but we’ve had so many great casts that I almost want to take some of those casts and put them on stage. But you know, I love like, I love modern stuff, too. It has given me a more of an appreciation, especially for like, the plays that nobody talks about. And like nobody talks about we’re about to do love’s labor’s lost on next weekend, and nobody talks about that play or we had a great time doing Paraguay’s, which is like a fable. And it’s also gotten I think helped me and I hope other people to be more comfortable with with the text because there is a daunting nature to it. No matter how much experience you have in it, it’s still kind of like, oh, god Shakespeare. And the reason so many people don’t like doing it. Because they’re like, Shakespeare.
Yeah, man, and you know, you you don’t want to feel like you don’t know what you’re saying. So that’s why I was like, are you like helping people understand? Are you suggesting that people have the no fear Shakespeare with them? Yeah, know what they’re saying?
Yeah, yeah. I always I always suggest that, like, I use it to where, cuz it’s like, sometimes you’ll see a passage and it’s like, I have no idea. Or, or what’s even better is I think I know what that means. Yeah, I know what that means. And then you and then you look it up. And you’re like, Oh, I completely got that wrong.
Yeah, totally. And it’s terrible if you get it totally wrong, right. Oh, yeah. What about Titus Andronicus? Have you guys done that one?
That’s my favorite. Oh, that’s fun. So much fake blood so that people can sit there in their in their home offices. And Nick’s jello and jello powder and barbecue sauce and rub it on their face and, you know, then go wash it off like Yes, I love that place. Insane.
It’s so dark. And almost so much so that it’s funny. where it’s like, where it’s like people, cutting their hands off and then fighting about who the fans going to be for sacrifice. where it’s like, it’s so Dark and gory. That’s almost funny. Oh, yeah.
I mean, it gets dark. 30 seconds in. And then it just goes, Yeah, for the whole thing. And you’re like,
so fun. I’m a big fan of the Anthony Hopkins movie.
Oh, yes. Julie Taymor, I think Yeah, I love that. Beautiful, really gorgeous. And she’s she’s brilliant.
So tell me before COVID shut down, you know, Glass Menagerie for you. What have you been doing? We’ve talked pretty much about you as a child. And then we jumped forward to now. But what’s happened in between? Like, what sort of acting Have you been involved in previous? were you doing films stage? How does navigating the Houston theater scene work for you? or How did it work for you previous to No.
So I went to St. Edwards University in Austin for theater. And then came back here afterwards. And, you know, I started in community theater, I have a great love for it. I still do stuff with community theater. It’s, you know, this city, people say people don’t think of it as one of the art cities, but it totally is the number of theatre companies and experience are an opportunities that decides for actors and directors and musicians and opera singer friends to, but, but the number of like, just little tiny companies that are popping up every year, it seems, in this city is amazing. And then I you know, I did some directing and ate it Really? Like, there’s a reason I think so many people have decided to settle here and act here. Mostly say I’ve mostly done stage stuff, a little bit of film, fine film Really? Like the whole Hurry up and wait, at least for me, is a challenge. Yeah, it’s hard. Because then then when it is time to go, you’re like, well, I’ve just been sitting here for two hours drinking coffee. So that’s, so that’s a challenge to kind of, like work yourself back up and getting into it.
Rather than doing like a full dramatic movie, like whenever I see that, Oh, my God, I can’t like how many times did she have to cry? Like from how many angles? You know, and tell us a blessing those directors that do the like long shots, because you’re like, at least it’s I
know, you know, you don’t have to put your actors through that again. And again. And again.
That’s the interesting thing is that, like, we were talking about using zoom and like looking at the camera, and like, I’ve become a lot more cognizant, cognizant of how I act when I’m not the one talking, you know what I mean? Because I know that the other person is staring at my face. So give them a lot because they’re, that’s all they’ve got. There’s no like scenery or audience or anything, all they have is my face to like, keep them in the moment, right. So I’ve learned a lot more about like face acting, you know, like, really just getting into showing them what I think and feel. And I feel like that’s a great film technique to have developed, because that’s, that’s like three quarters of what film actors are doing, like, think about how many times Okay, we’re focused on this actor, now. The camera will never look at you, other actor, but you still have to do this. See, yeah, this person, and this person has to do this deeply emotional seed five times, right. So you have to just keep giving them the face, you know, like, get them into it. You know, I think it’s a skill that hopefully we can take and put into more film in the future, like, more expressive faces, hopefully will litter film for the future.
I was gonna say like, and it’s amazing to watch. People have, you know, from the comfort of their own home to watch and, and I know, we’re kind of jumping around a little bit, but it’s amazing to watch. People from the comfort of their own homes have really intimate moments with people through the screen or really angry moments with people through the screen, like stuff. And that’s something that if, again, if you if you would talk about it in 2018 anyone would be like, That’s ridiculous. That’s impossible. Like, you can’t have a fight scene with somebody when you’re not in the same place, doesn’t it? It doesn’t make sense. Yeah. It really Work.
Yeah. And everybody’s so safe. And COVID but also from the, you know, potentially not listening to the fight choreographer.
Oh, fair enough. True. True.
I’ve certainly seen on stage where I’m like, Oh, no, oh, no, we’ve gone off the rails hold on what’s happening
for you? We don’t hurt each other as me. Especially as a director, when you’re sitting in the in the audience rushing your show, they like, Oh, I know that that move was wrong. Oh, and that person is bleeding cake. Just gonna sit here and act like nothing is wrong. Just gonna act like nothing?
Oh, my God, it’s so funny. Do you think you’ll continue doing this Zoo Shakespeare long after the stage comes back? Are you gonna do?
I don’t know. Yeah, I mean, I’d like to, I’d like to just go back to doing because I mean, I thought about it. I don’t know if there will be a need for it. There might be because it thinks things are going to go back slowly. But yeah, at this point, it’s just kind of like until, gosh, what is it? They’re talking about the summer when everyone’s gonna be vaccinated? I can’t, I can’t exactly. I know Is it is it even worth putting a time stamp on it? Because who knows, it’s going to take so long. I think maybe we could just do still do some stuff like reading, for instance, like, I don’t know about you. But when I go to see a group of readings, or a bunch of readings, it can be really taxing sitting and watching people in Black’s three to play with their scripts. And I think maybe it would be easier to do online.
I intention of continuing to use it for my, like, online classes, even if I start doing private instruction in person. I think doing the zoom reading is really great for multiple reasons. One, I can get actors from all around the world.
And I know one thing that I’ve really Yeah,
yeah. I mean, like, I’m sure you working with the people from Russia, the UK has like spoiled now. And now you’re like, Well, everyone from everywhere.
And that’s the thing. We’re like, we have people from around the world, like everybody’s really, really good. Literally, Lord, number one, first Lord and second citizen, are incredible. Because you have that, that opportunity to cast really, really, really good people, because you have this huge choice, this huge pool of actors to choose from
Plus, it’s like, you know, sometimes you can find somebody who has, like, from my point of view, when I teach people that are trying to write, if they’re trying to get a certain character that’s from a certain place, or they’re trying to, oh, this is set in this kind of thing. I try to find somebody who knows about that thing that they’re trying to create the world of. So I can be like, Hey, what’s that? Like? Can you be the reader for this, and then maybe they’re not the best actor. But at the end, I can have them give notes to my student to say, like, Oh, you know, this was set at a tech company, but like, we’ll do this at tech companies or whatever. You know what I mean? Like I think about, I mean, there’s so many different shows that are like, super niche, super, like, it’s this group, you know, the office is, you know, nobody in a paper company in the world is like, that’s not how we do it. But like, you know, er, for instance, you’re at a hospital there, they’re gonna have a lot of stuff that’s like, okay, make sure it looks like this, because some nerd nurse is watching this, and there’s gonna be like,
no, no, you got to do this, right? And why not stick to it, make it real, you know? So it’s, it’s, it’s good to have the freedom to hire different actors to find actors from different places. And then the other thing about doing a zoo breeding from my point of view for teaching, is that like, after, so I did the reading with my most recent student, and then I think everybody for doing I asked everyone for their thoughts. They gave us their thoughts. And then I said, Thank you so much, you can leave the meeting now. And then they left the meeting and I was able to post mortem with my student right away. You know what I mean? So that it’s not like, you know, like when you do a reading and they’re like, the actors are in the room. You can’t be like, Don’t worry, Tina, it’s not your it’s not you. You’re writing that made it bad. It was Ron, he’s
Like, you can write that, you know, and also no offense to like the actors either because like they’re literally there for one second. And they like swig it. Yeah. And then they’re gone. Right. So it’s like, you and I are working on this script for six weeks. We know what this guy is about. If there was a director and actors, of course, they would act it with its full emotion. But this guy just read it once. Like, it’s still I mean, now I use zoom for some podcasting. Not right now we’re on the phone, but, like, sometimes I use it. It’s a little glitchy. But
yeah, you know, 2020 was a weird year. Yeah. But I
like that it inspired you to do this Shakespeare thing. I mean, like, that’s pretty awesome. Zoom Shakespeare is is a great series that you know, you’re able to put together to give yourself and other people sort of a home during what was really a rough rough time. Are you at all interested in like running your own theatre? Or are you just gonna be an actor and maybe director with the returns?
I’d love I’d love to do take some of what what has been done with him Shakespeare and bring it on to the stage. It’s just a technicality aspect. Or like, we’re like, I don’t know how to run. Like, I know how to do it virtually. I’ve kind of taught myself a lot of i doing a virtual they don’t know, like, I would need it, I would need to get a good like business minded person to do it. Yeah. Because like, how do you? Like, what organization do what group Do you go through to sell tickets? How do you get a liquor license? How do you like, what are the fire code standards? How about a space? There’s so much more and so many aspects of things? You know? Yeah.
Yeah, physical space is definitely a lot for sure.
Now, if you were to give advice to, you know, an actor, or, you know, a would be producer on how to put together their own show, or, you know, get it going, you’ve clearly got an energy behind you, but what would you suggest to somebody who wants to do something similar?
I mean, honestly, we are kind of blessed and cursed with with right now, where there’s where there’s no or very little actual theater happening. with, you know, like, you have a medium like zoom or Google Hangouts, or I think, yeah, Google Groups or something like FaceTime, even, you could probably do stuff through where you can get a group of friends together and film it, put it on YouTube. Or just do it for yourself. Cuz right now we’re in a, we’re in a time where like, that literally costs nothing to to do. Yes, like crazy. Yeah. And again, this COVID thing has brought so much crap to the world and in some ways, has made so many people not not just myself, but made so many people like work around these current problems and find solutions.
Yeah. Well, kudos to you for, you know, having to put something together. I mean, I know it took me months before I could, like, lift my head up to do anything. So you know, good on you for getting people together. I’m sure there were people that were like, oh, fully, I had someone to hang out with and you were like, Hey, you want to do this Shakespeare thing? And they were like,
thank you so much for being on the podcast. It has been really great to chat with you. And you know, thanks so much for doing zoom Shakespeare and sharing it with the world. It’s like such a service to people and you know, I just think it’s a really great experience for everyone to you know, check out something I also really love this idea that you like work an expert in Shakespeare or like, you know, let’s do it like this. So amazing. Like, take the leap and do something new. So fun. So thank you, Rebecca, so much for being on the podcast.
Thank you so much. I mean, it was really fun. Thank you. Yeah.
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