May 11, 2021 #ChileDiverse #Life and Culture.

Living Teatro: Reinventing pandemic theater with plays specially designed for the online format

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Plays where the videoconference platform is part of the story. That is the premise of Living Teatro, original plays performed live through Zoom by a masterful cast.

The Cow Company was getting ready to premiere two live theater productions when, in March 2020, in-person theatrical performances were suspended. In the midst of this scenario, Marcos Alvo, director of the production company, proposed to scriptwriter Rafael Gumucio to write a play that was designed to be transmitted on a video call platform.

"We didn't want to do Hamlet for Zoom because it didn't make any sense, but the idea was that the videoconferencing platform we used would be part of the story, that it would be part of the narrative", says Marcos a little over a year after the premiere of Living Teatro's first play called "Master Class", which featured a luxury cast made up of Luis Gnecco, Amparo Noguera and Gabriel Urzúa.

Since then, this theater company has performed more than 40 live plays and estimates that around 40,000 people have bought a ticket. This experimental format, which marks a horizontality between the actors and the audience - as everyone is connected through Zoom - captivated international interest. The plays were adapted into neutral Spanish and premiered in the Colombian market with a local cast, while seeking to expand to other Latin American countries.

"The fantastic thing about this format is that it is totally democratic: the way the audience sees you is the way you see the audience. We are all circumscribed in the same frame, which is the computer screen, so the audience sees you with the same support as you see them. I feel that it is a format that can only continue to explore things, as far as the resources it has," says actor Luis Gnecco, who has been part of the cast since the beginning.

Another particularity is the community that has been generated around these plays. At the end of the production, the actors, the producer, the scriptwriter and the audience turn on their cameras to see each other's faces, get to know each other and engage in a relaxed and reflective conversation about the play, a unique space in which spectators and performers converse face to face.

"(The conversations) is like a part of the work, almost as important as the work itself. It is the work of communication with the public, moments in which we talk, they see us, they ask us... They are part of the work, very important and essential. We see each other, they see us, we are in their house, they are in our house, and that has produced a very strange and close relationship at the same time", comments scriptwriter Rafael Gumucio. Some people have even connected from hospitals or during preventive confinement because they are active cases or close contacts of covid.

This digital format has also contributed to decentralize theater in the country. Almost 70% of the people who connect do so from outside Santiago, and even part of the audience connects from other countries. "We often receive greetings from Australia, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Panama, Mexico. Most of them are Chileans who live abroad. There are faces that we see every week and that today are as well known as the actors", says Marcos and adds that it is the audience itself that has asked them to continue with these plays even when the face-to-face activities are resumed. "Our intention is that once we return to normality or the new normality to continue with the presential theater and also to continue with the theater by Zoom," he points out.


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