“Pandemonium” reigns at OutCast Productions

— Created March 17, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

OutCast Productions in Langley is pleased to present a completely original work to enjoy this weekend via the small screen: “Pandemonium, Life During the Pandemic.” The filmed collection of nine short plays debuted last weekend and three more opportunities to join in the streaming experience are available Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (“doors” open 30 minutes prior).

Artistic director and founder, Ned Farley, said that following the shutdowns and restrictions of 2020, it was time to try something new.

“We came into 2021 thinking we’ve got to do something, we have to find opportunities to be creative,” he said. “We invited playwrights to be creative – what’s it been like living in a pandemic for a year? We put the word out, basically asking for plays no longer than 20 minutes.”

Farley said they received nearly 30 submissions. Those were whittled down to just nine short plays by playwrights from around the globe, ranging in length from about four minutes to 20 minutes each.

“We have playwrights from England, Israel, New York, California and Seattle,” he said. “It’s a mix of humorous, slice-of-life works and more serious.”

Whether it’s the story of a single woman whose friendship with a live bat brings her great comfort, a wealthy couple from the Hamptons who get a life lesson in doing without, or the poignant depiction of a mother and daughter in deep, emotional, pandemic-induced pain, the thought-provoking production will spark laughter and likely some tears.

Despite health restrictions still in place at the time of filming, most of the plays were recorded on stage at the OutCast theater at the Langley fairgrounds.

“Two of the plays were written for Zoom, so we rehearsed them that way and recorded them on Zoom,” Farley explained. “Several were filmed in the theater up against a green screen so there is some consistency in how all of them look, and one was filmed at one of the couple’s home.”

Keeping actors and crew safe was also a priority.

“Three of the plays are about couples,” said Farley. “We cast them with couples who are in relationships, so they were already in their own bubble. When we brought them into the theater, it was just me and sometimes another director and a lighting designer.”

Even though several of the plays were recorded at the theater, the experience of directing for the stage versus directing for a camera was something very new, Farley said.

“Well, one difference is as the artistic director of the company, this felt more like being a project manager, which is not a bad thing,” he said. “It felt very different from that end because there was so much juggling.

“As a director, the rehearsal aspect was much different, because it was all virtual,” Farley continued. “That was part of the reason we cast actors we knew, because we knew what they could do and we were comfortable with them working on their own. So I wasn’t as hands on as I am in the theater, where I have to do a lot of blocking, work on the lighting, etc. Rehearsals we did on Zoom had to translate to performing in the theater. Because we wanted a virtual look, they were shot in place, with not a lot of movement.”

Farley said the actors involved were trusted to do a lot of the work on their own.

“The work was really all around the text. I’m not a micro manager as a director because I was an actor first,” he explained. “I’m already comfortable stepping back and seeing what the actors can bring.”

Of course, once all the filming was done, it was time for post-production, another new element to get used to in the streaming video process.

“A big chunk of the work was to do all the editing,” Farley said. “That’s something we’re not usually doing, it’s not typically part of the process. It was very interesting and I feel very good about it. I think it’s going to be an interesting venture into a new way of thinking about theater.”

Farley said the opportunity to produce new work during the pandemic was exciting for the playwrights as well.

“We had two Zoom interviews with some of the playwrights,” he said. “It was fun to listen to them talk about their excitement to do this project and be able to work during this pandemic. They were thrilled with the opportunity and I feel like we’ve made connections with people we can work with down the road.”

Community theaters across the country have faced difficulties of all kinds due to the pandemic. New technology costs money. Farley said he is thankful OutCast Productions had reserves on hand to help with expenses. This program is supported, in part, by a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts, of which the theater company was recently notified.

Cost to see “Pandemonium, Life During the Pandemic” is $20 per household. Tickets are available online at outcastproductions.net; click on the “donate” button, which will link to OutCast’s PayPal site. Those who submit payment will receive a link to the livestream broadcast of their choice.

“Because of the topic, I really think seeing something like this is one of the ways we can take care of ourselves after living in a very stressed environment for a while,” said Farley. “There’s something about theater that can be healing. Whether it’s funny or serious, it offers a healing quality. I think it’s going to be really entertaining.”