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Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ Takes Virtual Twist

 

In this era of social distancing, staging live theater presents many challenges, most notably, keeping the actors six feet apart. However, the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre found a way to pull it off for the production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s “The Turn of the Screw.”

The production, which had been cast in February, had been called off when the coronavirus pandemic forced Chagrin Falls community theater to cancel the remainder of its 90th anniversary season. The theater’s board approached Laurel Bryant, who had been tapped to stage the canceled production, to direct a virtual one.

“My cast is actually boyfriend and girlfriend and live together, so it didn't make an impact on safety concerns as far as they were concerned because they're already together,” Bryant said.

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[Chagrin Valley Little Theatre]

While Steven Livingston and Jamie Satterfield could work in close proximity, Bryant still had to figure out a way to stage the show and provide direction while not being in the same room with the actors, for the most part.

“From March until a couple of weeks ago, we did all of our rehearsals virtually, which is quite interesting. It’s very hard to direct actors and block a show when it's done virtually. We started meeting in the theater about a week or so ago after we were given the all clear from the theater board. There's only three of us in rehearsals, and I sit in the back row and direct from back there,” Bryant said.

Livingston and Satterfield will tape their performance this week which will be made available for viewing Friday and Saturday on the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre website.  

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Jamie Satterfield  [Chagrin Valley Little Theatre]

Bryant said her young actors have soldiered on despite the unusual circumstances they’ve faced.

“They're just very excited to do this production. Jamie and Steven are graduates from Cleveland State’s theater program. While they're very young, I find that their passion and their excitement to do this production and tackle these characters is fantastic. They're willing to learn different things. They love discussing and working on this production,” Bryant said.

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Steven Livingston [Chagrin Valley Little Theatre]

Among the more challenging elements the cast will face is not having an audience from which they can draw energy.

“That part is very tricky. This play is a thriller and there are many moments in the show where we would enjoy having the audience reaction. That's something we're not going to get. The actors have been working on feeding off of each other and building that intensity without having that audience reaction,” Bryant said.

After not being able to work on a production for months due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bryant is relishing the opportunity to return to the theater.

“It has been fantastic. I have been involved with the Northeast Ohio theater community for almost 40 years now. A lot of my friends are theater people. I can't tell you the discussions that we've had of how depressed we are that we can't hang out with the theater people and work on shows,” she said. “It's kind of our creative outlet. It's what keeps us going. It just felt like coming home again.”

The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre production of “The Turn of the Screw” will be available for streaming June 26 and 27.

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