The River’s Edge Theatre Co., founded in August 2019, isn’t letting the COVID-19 pandemic obstruct its mission of using theater “to reflect the human experience, spark conversation, and inspire social change” while raising funds for nonprofit organizations.
Co-artistic director Meghan Covington of Ardsley has written a “dramedy” about life during the pandemic, “The Provider,” to be performed virtually Saturday, Jan. 16, at 8:30 p.m. through Zoom. Jessica Irons, artistic director of Theater O in Ossining, directs.
River’s Edge will devote 75% of the ticket sales to Feeding Westchester, a nonprofit that sources and distributes food to the hungry throughout Westchester. Ticket prices are pay-what-you-wish; suggested donation is $15.
Presented as a staged reading that Covington, 38, and her husband and co-artistic director David Covington, 40, describe as a “strange yet honest exploration of pandemic life,” the hourlong work, the playwright’s first, consists of two-person scenes between The Provider (Julia Schonberg), a young woman who has a unique business, and each of her five clients, who are sheltering in place.
Merideth Maddox plays Client 1, a mother of young children; Don Creedon is Client 2, a lonely man; Jed Aicher plays Client 3, a distraught husband; Sweta Keswani, Client 4, is a businesswoman; and Meredith Siegel, Client 5, is a busy empty-nester.
The unnamed provider, who resides in a region similar to Westchester County, offers a unique service, which Covington won’t reveal. “It’s a little bit surreal,” she said in an interview.
“The Provider” evolved from material developed for “Cold Reads,” the company’s staged reading last November. The experimental “Cold Reads” showed a common audition situation, in which actors are presented with an unfamiliar script, given no rehearsal, direction, scenery or props, and expected to deliver a performance-ready (or nearly ready) “cold reading” of the script.
“I was trying to find a scene for two actors, and couldn’t find something quite right, so I just wrote it myself,” Covington said. “The original… was ‘Somewhere Between the Couch and the End of the World.’”
That very short “play” had a “mom character,” Covington explained, “and I’m a mom living through the pandemic. The other character was a yoga instructor, so I’m taking bits and pieces of my own life. ‘The Provider’ came through my own pandemic experience.”
The Covingtons have three young daughters, and she is a yoga instructor, personal trainer, and the owner of Mind Body Fitness movement program. David Covington, executive director for the Alumni Association at City College of New York, is working from home.
“I’ve added to the play, thinking about how others might be dealing with the pandemic as well,” she continued. Feedback from her cast, who all performed in “Cold Reads,” helped Covington craft some scenes in “The Provider.”
A techno-twist to the play is that it’s a Zoom-within-a-Zoom performance. Stage manager Alex Fletcher, with the Covingtons, will handle the production intricacies.
Ticket buyers will access the play through a Zoom link emailed to them, but they won’t be participating in the type of Zoom session most home-based workers and students have been using during the pandemic. In the usual Zoom sessions, all participants can see one another, if they choose, by turning on their computer’s video function. Each person appears onscreen framed in a box.
Instead, this audience will be watching a Zoom webinar: they’ll see The Provider and a client individually in square frames, as if the actors were panelists at a seminar. The actors can’t see the audience, and the viewers can’t see one another.
Within the world of the play, though, each character engages in one-on-one audiovisual communication with The Provider in the familiar type of Zoom session. If there were an audience of other characters in that Zoom session who turned on their video cameras, everyone would see and hear everyone else.
The playwright hopes the audience will get the message that “It’s OK to feel whatever feelings arise through these challenging times. This gives you a wide variety of reactions and emotions. Everybody’s having a very different and unique experience. That is very much highlighted in the piece.”
To purchase tickets online, visit riversedgetheatre.com and click on “performances.” Tickets will be available until 8 p.m. on Jan. 16.