How We Did It

We had so much fun making this show and learnt so much about making a show via an online medium.

The Arts and especially theatre is having a tough time at the minute and we wanted to share some challenges we faced and how we did a few scenes. Before tackling Zoom we chatted to some companies who had made online work, we are so grateful to them for passing on their knowledge. Now it’s our turn…

On this page is a snippet of what we did and learnt!

Things we found useful when devising on Zoom:

  1. To keep research sessions quick & smooth, think of a list of topics/people/events, take one each- you have 15 mins to then find out as much as you can - Add everything to a shared google doc.
  2. Before starting a writing session, pick from a list of writing forms that could work for the show, for us this was; a list of themes we’d collated from research, and from one character’s perspective or during a certain moment in Valentina’s story. Everyone had 5 minutes to free-write then present back. Kept everything in a shared google doc so that when we came to writing the actual show we could quickly pop back and use phrases or paragraphs we liked.
  3. Start off focusing on playing with using the camera, & everyday objects like toilet rolls, blankets, cheese graters, coffee makers. It’s on such a small scale with the camera focusing so closely on the objects they can appear massive and you’d be surprised how many rocket-esqued items you can find in your kitchen filmed from strange angles!
All the items used in our set fit neatly into a cardboard box!
What performer El sees at the beginning of a show
  1. Feedback becomes really important on Zoom, as you’re usually performing to a group of people who are muted with their videos off, and sometimes not even facing the screen with your scene partner, so it can feel strangely isolating when a scene finishes and you have no clue how it has gone. In the rehearsal room you can pick up a million different things non-verbally which just isn’t possible in this medium, and especially difficult for clowning over Zoom which is totally based on responding to an audience! During rehearsals other team members can also remain unmuted so you can hear them laughing / responding in the moment.
  2. Schedule extra time for production chats either during rehearsals or afterwards, or make constant use of breakout rooms. All those 2 min conversations you would usually have about venue or marketing updates etc on the walk out of the building for lunch is impossible because obviously on Zoom only one person can be speaking at a time, unlike when rehearsing in person.
  3. Being aware that the performers are now also their own stage managers, technicians, costume people, camera operators etc as well as doing their own get ins/outs before and after each rehearsal starts. As a performer these are the most exhausting rehearsals I have been in as the focus is constantly on 20 different things on top of performing a scene! Always go outside during your lunch break, especially if your window has been blacked out!
  1. Being aware that EVERYONE is pretty much in the same boat - no one has much experience if any of making and performing a show on Zoom, so everything will need a little bit more time than you’d think and patience is needed because there are whole host of new specific challenges each person never realised they’d encounter. Sound designers are having to work out how to balance levels on a tricky new platform, directors are now running tiny film sets, and you’ll absolutely need a Zoom Wizard (unofficial title for our operator who figured out how to run Zoom through QLab, spotlighting different people, muting/unmuting, arranging screens in certain ways on stage, running pre-recorded video and voice overs, plus all the regular sound cues - PHEW!)
  2. Sound wise, performers need a pair of bluetooth headphones so as to get the clearest voice whilst someone else is sharing sound.
  3. Running ethernet cables to the computers of anyone performing/running tech is the best way of keeping a steady connection during a performance. No one wants the horror of being frozen mid-scene or kicked out the Zoom Room!!
  4. Lighting- Performing on Zoom gives you a much smaller, focused playing space. So a flashing bike light can become a spaceship warning light, a phone torch held under a colander can become a constellation of stars.

Wellbeing Tips

Staring at a screen all day can be quite exhausting! We figured out some strategies to make it easier.

  • 10 min break morning and afternoon + 1 hour lunch break
  • Daily check-ins and check-outs with every member of team
  • Breakout rooms to break up day and groups
  • Dance parties/warm up games
  • Acknowledge when someone joins the zoom (wave if in middle of conversation)
  • Stick to timings
  • Plan a week ahead and go over plan with team at start of day
  • Put start and end times to meetings

We did a total of 3 weeks on zoom with two work-in-progress show at the end. We started off by playing around with objects we had to hand and then moved into building the set and costumes.

Equipment

Technical

We played around with a few tech ideas, this is what we settled on for our equipment- every show is different but this might help you start your search.

Note: Many of these are available from alternative providers. We are not affiliated with any of these providers. Links correct at time of publication.

Rehearsal

  • A picture frame with the back removed
  • Whiteboard pens
  • Sticky tape/double sided tape
  • Black/white top
  • Toilet roll tube
  • White sheet/black sheet
  • String
  • Pegs/clips
  • Simple fairy lights
  • Small LED torch/bike lights
  • Thread/fishing wire
  • Sticks (eg kebab sticks, garden canes)
  • Blue tack
  • Desklamp
  • Boxes/shelves - (range of different height surfaces to potentially stick things to)
  • Small heavy objects to weight things, hold stuff in position

Backstage Tour

Sophie Taylor gives us a tour of her backstage setup for the showings.

Showings

After 2 weeks of R&D we started work on what the final show would look like. Here is how we were feeling after the end of week 3 and the first full run through.