As the North Bay continues to practice pandemic-inspired social distancing, local theater companies—including Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater—invent new ways to perform.
One of the first theater groups to invest in digital-video technology this summer, the acclaimed Cinnabar Theater is now running its virtual production of the one-woman play, The Lady With All the Answers.
“Despite the restrictions of Covid-19, we want to provide the community with a unique theater experience, the opportunity to enjoy streaming theater from the comfort of your home,” says Cinnabar Theater executive director Diane Dragone.
Filmed in Cinnabar’s playhouse in Petaluma with a small staff on hand, the show stars Cinnabar veteran Laura Jorgensen as beloved advice-columnist Ann Landers, aka Eppie Lederer, the midwestern woman who wrote the popular advice column for 47 years and addressed many taboo topics in her column; not the least of which was the proper way to hang toilet paper.
The Lady With All the Answers is set in 1975 as Lederer struggles to write a particularly personal column. While she tries to find the words to address her readers, Lederer flips through old newspaper clippings and shares them with the theater audience—essentially talking directly to the crowd throughout the show.
That presents a particular challenge to Cinnabar’s new virtual theater experience, though staff—under longtime director Michael Fontaine—have been preparing all summer, and before working on this show, the crew honed their video skills by presenting a new online production, “The CinnaTriv Theater Game Show.” The “Jeopardy”-style game, in which three contestants are tested on their knowledge of all things theater, is available to watch on YouTube now.
The Lady with All the Answers can be seen in streaming performances Fridays to Sundays through Oct. 4. Tickets are $20 for one device or $40 for multiple devices, and Dragone notes that ticket sales will offset ongoing expenses and will support the cast and crew.
“During these uncertain times, it’s important to keep local theater and the arts alive,” Dragone says. “These virtual performances require the same production efforts and cost as their live counterparts. We hope our patrons and the community will discover the same value, joy and entertainment in our virtual productions that we do in creating them. Theater allows us to escape for a time and encourages us to laugh and listen and be connected, even if we can’t be together in person.”