One-woman show brings live theater back in a safe, unique way

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How do you make live theater happen in the middle of a pandemic? With a little bit of creativity.

EgoPo—Philly’s own nonprofit theater company committed to revitalizing the great classics of theater and literature—has announced the cast for their live solo-audience, walk-up window production of Samuel Beckett’s 10-minute classic, ‘Rockaby.’

The theater has been able to revamp the one-woman show in their own way, having audiences choose between three actors, who will then be performing in a private home. Once one of the local actors is chosen, then a neighborhood is chosen, and after both are set, viewers will then get directed to a street corner in their chosen neighborhood. There, they are led down a block or alleyway to a chair that awaits them in front of a nondescript window. They put on disposable headphones and the blinds raise to reveal the show, almost similar to the typical curtain raise. The neighborhood choices for the show range from Point Breeze, Passyunk Crossing, and East Oak Lane, and the actors will be recognized as familiar faces in the Philly theater scene.

Cathy Simpson, Melanie Julian, and Karen Vicks are all set to be stars in EgoPo’s “mini-tour” across the City of Brotherly Love.

According to the release, Simpson, a celebrated Philadelphia veteran actor, was last seen on EgoPo stages as Halie in last season’s ‘Buried Child’ and has local credits including Arden, Wilma, and Philadelphia Theatre Company. Julian played the titular characters in EgoPo’s ‘Jesse James’ and ‘The Lydie Breeze Trilogy’, and “Arkadina” in the Barrymore Award-winning production of ‘The Seagull’. Vicks is a Barrymore Award-winning performer, with credits both onstage at Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Delaware Theatre Company, and on film and television series’ “Veep,” “The Wire,” and “Dispatches from Elsewhere.”  ‘Rockaby’ will be directed by both EgoPo’s Artist in Residence, Damien J. Wallace, and Founding Artistic Director, Lane Savadove and is being performed with the permission of both Actor’s Equity and the Beckett Estate.

The show itself has also gained a wide audience base since its premiere in 1981. ‘Rockaby’ debuted at SUNY Buffalo and was directed by the “great Beckett interpreter,” Alan Schneider, in celebration of Beckett’s 75th birthday. At the time, Mel Gussow wrote in the New York Times: “The play lasts only 15 minutes, but by any measure other than length this is a major dramatic event, evocatively encapsulating — in words and in visual metaphor — the perdurability of the human spirit…”

Over the years, many actresses have stepped into the roles of this thought-provoking piece. But for those behind the show, it’s also about the personal connection.

“This piece is deeply personal for me. I first fell in love with theater when my father (insanely) took me to see ‘Rockaby’ as a young teenager. Then, when Covid shut down our theaters, and our front doors, this piece immediately came to mind as an essential theatrical experience,” says Savadove in a statement. “A woman, solitary in her house, looking out her window for other women, also solitary in their houses. All of us so desperately in need of human connection – each house on my street containing a vibrant life drama – each separate and isolated. Could we for a moment look into each other’s worlds and feel less alone? Thus… ‘Rockaby’ for an audience of one.”

According to the release, this is also Wallace’s EgoPo directing debut, following his recent co-creation and performance in this season’s virtual adaptation, ‘Underground.’ On Wallace, Savadove shares, “At the end of my own mother’s life, she retreated inside her home, and my final months with her were through a window. Beckett’s piece is not dramatic hyperbole, it is the desperate and intense reality for many, perhaps for all, as we reach the end of our days. I’ve always seen this piece as ferocious and touching and vulnerable. And, in my mind, there is no better director/actor for grounding heightened text than Damien Wallace. He is a master with Beckett and I am so honored to direct with him. Having two directors will help make each of the women’s worlds completely distinct from each other, influenced by their unique personalities and unique neighborhoods.”

Wallace and Savadove will also be joined by Chris Sannino as the Sound Designer, and EgoPo’s Associate Producer Dane Eissler as the Production Designer. This particular piece may take multiple people to make it happen, but the message of the show takes on another meaning for those of us who are feeling a bit alone after a long year of social isolation— and it all happens in just 10-minutes.

Tickets are now on sale for the production. The release states that tickets will cost $25 for the 10-minute viewing. Guests will select a performance window by preferred neighborhood or performer during the purchase process, or they can purchase ‘Rockaby’ Passport for $60 to witness all three distinct journeys of the isolated “Woman.” The audience member will be sent a street corner destination, an arrival time, and a 10-minute slot assignment within 48 hours of their purchase by email. Once arrived at the designated street corner on the day of the performance, a masked guide will lead them to a single chair awaiting in front of a window. They will don disposable, single-use headphones and the blinds lift to reveal the woman in the rocking chair, isolated inside her home yearning for connection. Audience members listen to the beautiful, hypnotic text while glimpsing her haunting journey without ever going inside, remaining distanced from any other people.

For more information about the experience and what to expect, visit egopo.org/rockaby or call 267-273-1414.

 

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