Based on the online content currently available, featuring singers, musicians, dancers and actors in virtual performances, there seems to be an explosion of creativity on the part of artists continuing to express themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also contributing behind the scenes are writers, directors and producers who are also contributing to the abundance of art being produced and enthusiastically consumed.
One of those artists is Virginia Vasquez, a local actor-singer-writer. I came to know Vasquez when she performed in “Broadway’s Leading Ladies: A Tribute” presented by Magic Thread Cabaret, of which I am managing director and Dustin Klein is artistic director. The organization is under the auspices of our company, Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC. An entry in the 2018 IndyFringe Theatre Festival, “Broadway’s Leading Ladies” was named the #2 Best-Selling Show.
Having not seen Vasquez since closing night of the Fringe show, I was pleasantly surprised when she reached out to me by email a few days ago to alert me to “#WFH” (#Working From Home), a webcam comedy she wrote and is producing, with the assistance of Deena Fogle and Adam Allen. Featuring some of Central Indiana’s most well-known community theatre performers, the show includes Nathalie Cruz, David M. Johnson, John Kern, Mikayla Reed Koharchik, Steve Kruze, Virginia Leonore, Brent Marty, Miki Mathioudakis, Devan Mathias, Evan Mathias, Jolene Mentink Moffatt, Emily Schaab and Jonathan Studdard. “#WFH” streams on Facebook Live on Saturday, 8 p.m., May 9.
Below is my email exchange with Vasquez, in which we discussed her project, what she hopes to accomplish and how she is personally coping with the pandemic.
Update me on your most recent activities.
I got to perform in a terrific Sondheim show, “Side by Side by Sondheim” this winter at The Belfry Theatre in Noblesville. I feel lucky to have gotten that in before so many shows were canceled. I’m also studying dance for the first time and happily, my local studio has gone virtual.
What prompted you to write “#WFH”?
I was listening to a podcast promoting creation as a way to balance COVID-19-fueled information over-consumption. Then a beloved local actor put a call out for writers to send him scenes to film in his living room. That got my wheels turning.
Years ago, I lived in Los Angeles and wrote a spec script for “The Office” that got me an interview at NBC, which led to acceptance into an ABC/NBC emerging TV writer fellowship. So, the format of “The Office” is a favorite, and I thought the talking-heads scenes (or “confessionals” in reality TV) were a good fit for actors filming themselves at home, webcam-style. Like many people, I’m working from home full-time right now, so thinking about what “The Office” looks like when everyone’s #WFH is interesting to me.
It had been a while since my last script. That fellowship offer happened at the same time I’d decided Hollywood wasn’t the work environment I wanted, so I declined it and returned to Indiana for grad school. I always thought I’d continue script writing for the theatre, instead.
My first post-L.A. writing project was a short-play festival. It was the first time I’d ever seen actors performing my work in person and I was so uncomfortable sitting with the audience, I felt physically ill. That was the last time I wrote a script.
This experience has been different because in some ways. I’m different. I also get to provide direction in this format. And I’m working with actors I trust and admire.
What is the format?
The final cut isn’t done, but based on the script length, we expect it to be about the length and format of a TV sitcom. All of the scenes have been filmed by the actors, in their homes, many with their laptop webcams or phones.
What is the content?
It’s a lighthearted mockumentary of what #WFH looks like for 14 different people.
Assuming you didn’t audition, how did you go about choosing your actors?
When you’re writing, you can’t help having people in your head. The difference when you’re under a stay-at-home order is that people are available! We knew a lot of people who could put on a great show. We thought about who could transition to video, who would be conscientious about filming on their own, etc.
Are you producing it on your own?
I’m joined by one of my favorite Indy stage managers, Deena Fogle. She’s organized, has great casting ideas, and has seen so many shows; she has a trained eye. Adam Allen of Fierce Little Bird Productions has joined us for video editing and has been a great resource for scene selection and exploring what’s possible. We’re excited to see his edit.
What do you hope you will achieve through the show?
Have you ever turned on the TV when the house felt a little empty or lonely? I’m after that comforting feeling for the audience, with the added bonuses of familiar faces for many, and scenes they can relate to. I’d love to share the feeling of community I’ve felt each night reviewing the scenes, getting to watch some of my favorite local actors performing material that’s “right now” and right in my own living room.
How are you dealing with the pandemic personally?
I’m grateful for safe and healthy family and friends; that’s big. A circumstance like this can kind of amplify your feelings, the good and the bad. It’s not easy, but if you had told me six weeks ago we’d be stuck at home for 6+ weeks working and taking care of our son and rarely seeing other humans, I never would have believed we could be doing this well.
Who are you quarantined with?
My husband Cory, our two-year-old son Jack, and our little black cat.
How are you spending your time?
I have less “free time” now that my husband and I are both working from home and taking care of our son full-time. We have to tag team work and care hours, which means working nights and weekends too. So, I’m mostly working, taking care of our son or working on “#WFH.” But I sneak in House Party app visits with friends and family, video calls and a weekly virtual dance class too.
What do you miss the most?
For my son, I miss him getting to see his grandparents in person. They’re a huge part of his life. For my husband and me, I miss going out to eat. There are no cooks quarantined with us.
What is the pandemic teaching you?
Humans are an adaptable species. I’m amazed how we’ve adapted our family life, how my workplace adapts, how the creative community is adapting. That aspect of this period in time is fascinating.
Watch “#WFH” on Facebook Live Saturday, May 9 at 8:00 p.m. Check out the event page is here.