“Under Construction: THE ZOOM SERIES” produced by Jami Brandli, Meeghan Holaway and Carlyle King streams through November 15.
In 2019 Carlyle King and Jessica Broutt brought together a group of 11 playwrights, both emerging and established writers, to meet bimonthly to create and workshop new plays. They called it UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Each playwright entered the group with the beginnings of a new play. The work would be developed collaboratively. This program is modeled for playwrights who would benefit from a structured space to receive feedback from peers, all in the supportive environment of The Road. This group furthers The Road’s mission to develop socially and politically relevant voices and thoughts to the American stage, as well as continues to establish the company as a leader and champion of new work in Los Angeles.
“Under Construction: THE ZOOM SERIES” is a virtual reading of eight new short plays focusing on timely topics of our current year and streams through November 15.
One of the plays that fits the current times perfectly is “Reach,” written by Jennie Webb, directed by Susan Diol and streaming Saturday, October 24. It’s a short comedy about the ways in which we connect, or try to, “Reach” takes a peek at socially-distanced friends during a time when the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and racism hit Los Angelenos-and bring them together-in rather revealing ways. The play features Brian M. Cole, Judith Moreland and Carlyle King. The choice of song for the play’s opening and closing is firehill’s “Believe.” Adam Bruce and Shawn Doll are the song writing duo of firehill who, together, have written more than 200 pieces and created nearly 40 songs across several genres.
We asked the playwright, producer, band and cofounder of the play reading series some questions.
Why did you choose to write this play?
Jennie Webb, L.A.-based playwright, dramaturg: When the prospect of writing Zoom plays as part of the Road’s UNDER CONSTRUCTION playwrights group was floated at the end of April, I thought, “Hey! Why not!?” To most of us, Zoom was a squeaky new deal, but I looked at this as a chance to write a little play for actors in the company who I really love – Brian M. Cole, Judith Moreland and Carlyle King.
So for a bit I walked around trying to figure out what the scenario would be; who were the characters and why would they be together. On Zoom! I loved the idea of the communication challenges we were (and are) going through in the time of Covid, when we are so desperate for connection. To really feel like we’re reaching each other even (or especially) at a distance. My first step was talking to Brian, who is deaf, about his experiences and doing a bunch of research on the deaf community… and then George Floyd was murdered.
And so the play deepened. Like many white Angelenos, I started taking a closer look at my own hidden biases, expectations, assumptions and reached out to Judy, who is Black, to get a sense what she was going through and was comfortable sharing and exploring in this piece. Like everything right now, we were making it up as we went along. And working collaboratively with Brian, Judy and Carlyle, along with director Susan Diol and Christine as producer, made this a really special project for me.
What I’d love people to sit with after seeing Reach is the humor. The often uncomfortable humor in the play that hopefully helps us see things in a new way? In ourselves, and others. So that when we reach out and really connect, we’re open to something new maybe happening. And when our efforts miss, it doesn’t dissuade us from trying again. And again. We’re all in this together. Right?
Why did you choose to add the song, “Believe” to the reading?
Christine Joëlle, producer for “Reach”: I quickly realized how special the play “Reach” by Jeannie Webb was after reading it. And after watching our first rehearsals on Zoom, I instantly thought of the song, “Believe” by firehill – knowing it would make a perfect song to use for the play’s opening and end credits. After receiving permission for its use, it started all coming together. It’s a beautiful catchy uplifting song focusing on Black Lives Matter and matches on point with “Reach”s message, which takes a peek at socially-distanced friends during a time when the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and racism hit bringing them together in revealing ways. The UNDER CONSTRUCTION Zoom Series by the Road was created to showcase playwrights out to the world with their unpublished work. And with our play, “Reach,” I extended that olive branch even further to include unknown music.
Why did you pen this song?
Adam Bruce of firehill: In the last couple of years I’ve had conversations with people of color and watched many disturbing videos… both of which have finally opened my eyes to the racism that exists in our country today. The problem is exacerbated when people try to politicize human rights issues. This song was penned out of both frustration for those that refuse to accept the reality of racism as it exists today, and out of hope that the current movement to drive positive change will continue to grow stronger.
What’s coming up for you?
Shawn Doll of firehill: It’s been a busy couple of months and will only get busier as we set out to release new songs and videos every couple of months for the foreseeable future.
Up next is a song called “Somebody’s Bitch” and it is a song that represents and celebrates individuality and independence. We will release the new tune and video sometime in November 2020 followed by a powerful new song in the first part of 2021. More details to come and all the latest news at firehillmusic.com
What are the plus and minuses of doing virtual readings?
Carlyle King, Road Theatre Company: As the producer of the Zoom Series (with Meeghan Holaway and Jami Brandli) and of Under Construction (along with Jessica Broutt and Carlos LaCamara), we love the challenge of virtual and learned the plus is the number of people you can reach across the world. For our playwrights festival we reached 18,000 people on six continents, which is thrilling. We now have fans in Mexico and Dubai. Of course nothing replaces live theatre. Both the energy from the audience and the energy from your fellow actors. Once this is over, we will continue a virtual platform and welcome back our fellow theatre goers and actors in person with joy!
“Reach” featuring Brian M. Cole (upper left), Judith Moreland (upper right) and Carlyle King (bottom). Photo by Christine Joëlle.
“THE KEEPSAKE” by Carlos Lacámara
Directed by Meeghan Holaway
“Love and clocks.”
Ed: Tom Knickerbocker
Lauren: Ann Hearn
Tara: Kacie Rogers
“THE STATEMENT” by Bernardo Cubría
Directed by Chelsea Gonzalez
Late to put out a “Black Lives Matter” statement, the marketing team at White Claw holds an emergency meeting to find the right words while remaining on brand.
Pablo: Roland Ruiz
Britney: Chelsea Gonzalez
Marl: Jon Sprik
Chad: Kyle Bryan Hall
“BUBBLE” by Jennifer Maisel
Directed by Sara Guerrero
Two women hover on the brink, juggling the insanity of solo parenting in the pandemic. How far will they go for their friendship?.
Carrie: Cherish Monique Duke
Liz: Presciliana Esparolini
“SNOWFLAKE” by Velina Hasu Houston
Directed by Stewart J. Zully
Two college administrators of color meet online with an applicant they think is Black. Much to their surprise, while the applicant identifies as Black, she looks White. The encounter blows to smithereens all notions of race and ethnic diversity.
Sumi Sommerville: Kimberly Green
Riley Doyle: Jennifer Finch
Reggie Sumoto: Dana Lee
“ExZOOMED” by Steve Apostolina
Directed by Steve Apostolina
23 years after their mysterious breakup, two ex-lovers reunite on Zoom. Inner secrets will finally be exhumed – and truth is king.
Jack: Jonathan Nichols
Diane: Meeghan Holaway
D2: Ann Hearn
“TERRORIST IS SPELLED K-A-R-E-N” by Aja Houston
Directed by Inger Tudor
Grocery stores. Parks. Sidewalks. Restaurants. At home. Black couple, Toni and X, fight daily for their survival as they move through these commonplace spaces that are regularly targeted by the American terrorist group, KAREN. When one member violently attacks X, Toni struggles to help put the pieces of his soul back together KAREN sought to annihilate.
Toni: Kacie Rogers Karen:
“REACH” by Jennie Webb
Directed by Susan Diol
A short comedy about the ways in which we connect, or try to, Reach takes a peek at socially-distanced friends during a time when the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and Racism hit Los Angelenos—and bring them together—in rather revealing ways.
Jeffrey: Brian Cole
Claudia: Judith Moreland
Janet: Carlyle King
“EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY” by Jami Brandli
Directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky
A long-time married couple struggles to adjust to the never-ending pandemic living situation while their marriage counselor wrestles with her own problems.
Kim: Lizzy Kimball
David: Brian Graves
Alex: Donna Simone Johnson
All streaming through November 15.
Ticket prices are suggested donation of $15. No donation is too small, but if you can’t afford to donate at this time we understand.
The Road Theatre Company
Located in the heart of the NoHo Arts district-the fastest growing arts district in Los Angeles County. Fiercely committed to that most dangerous of theater missions-the dedication to new works-The Road Theatre Company led by founding artistic director Taylor Gilbert and artistic director Sam Anderson, is a multi-award-winning theater that has been named one of the top ten intimate theater companies in Los Angeles (LA Weekly). It is home to over 150 theater artists devoted to the creation of the highest level of work.
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