How ATM’s Fall Theatre Festival Transforms Theatre As We Know It

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The Cast of ATM’s Fall Festival

by Vicky Sidler

There is no doubt that 2020 is the year that has turned everything upside down. Nothing feels normal anymore, and “life as we know it” has become a distant memory. In one of the most difficult years that most people have had to face, we’ve lost the ability to partake in some of the activities that have brought us the most joy.

The theatre is just one of the many things that social distancing has robbed us of. ATM Productions, however, has not let these protocols stand in the way of its Fall Festival, which will be presented over Zoom from October 23 to October 25. The festival will present four plays virtually, including Countrie Matters, Louisa May Alcott: the Power of a Woman, Pineapple And Other Options, and The Jewish Question.

2020 has also been a year of addressing extremely difficult, global issues related to equality and inclusivity. ATM Productions’ choice of plays speaks to this, highlighting older, strong female leads over the age of 40 — a demographic that seldom lands leading roles.

We chatted with the writers, directors, and actors of the plays to discover how they intend to make the most of the virtual production, their creative process, and how they’ve tackled the main theme of inclusivity.

Creative Genius Takes Time — Usually

Some of the plays featured have been years in the making. Countrie Matters director Ellyn Stern (who also plays Ophelia) has been working on the play for many years. “I originally heard about this play being written by our mutual friend Felicity, who introduced us via email, and thought it would be a perfect fit for me,” she explains. “I fell in love with Shakespeare when I was 12 and have always loved Hamlet. Matthew was writing the play then. When the play was ‘completed,’ I did two staged readings of it (playing Ophelia), with panels following, and listened carefully to the audience’s reaction and how it felt for the actors. I would give Matthew feedback, after which he would do rewrites. Matthew breathes Shakespeare and his egoless need to raise the bar on the text, quickly turned the rewrites. While honoring the original text, he has brought an originality of wit and relatability to this play that I love. The beautiful thing about this piece is that it stands on its own outside of Hamlet. I heard about this play while in Australia, Matthew lived in New York, and I live in Los Angeles. Matthew now is in Thailand. Countries and time have not stood in the way of this play moving forward as Countrie Matters!”

Matthew J Wells, the playwright of Countrie Matters, shared his feelings about Ellyn’s production: “Ellyn’s view of the script helped to elevate Ophelia to an equal standing with Hamlet. She sees their relationship as the heart of the play, and she’s right. Her suggestions and critiques helped put that in center stage in the current draft. In the beginning, [Ophelia’s daughter] Phyllida took center. She was the strongest voice in the play — the outsider who called bullshit on everybody, and opened their eyes to either what they were ignoring or deliberately concealing from themselves. Hurricane Phyllida, blowing away the stale air of Elsinore. That’s still her function, but it’s not as stormy as it was. And the clouds that hang over Hamlet and Ophelia can only be blown away by the two of them. They’re center stage now. And that’s all due to Ellyn’s input.”

Similarly, Jeanmarie Simpson, the playwright and director of The Jewish Question and playwright and actor (playing the minor role of Jan) in Pineapple And Other Options, has been working on both plays for many years.

“I’ve been writing Pineapple And Other Options for four years,” Jeanmarie reveals. “That’s pretty typical for me. I want to let go, and sometimes I think I’m ready to move on, but it takes as long as it takes. I feel tremendous relief and gratitude that writer/performer Pamela Sterling took on the direction of the piece. She is an exquisite director — beyond her remarkable technical skill, Pamela’s artistic ingenuity articulates and elevates the work with seeming effortless elegance and grace.”

Jeanmarie’s experience with The Jewish Question was completely different, however. “The Jewish Question is a piece I’ve been carrying around for 15 years in that corner of my imagination where I store ideas for future projects. When COVID hit, and we were all stuck at home, John Perovich offered a playwrighting workshop in which we’d write a first draft in 30 days. I’d never written a first draft in fewer than 6 months. The confines of the workshop, the weekly assignments, forced me to hammer it out, and I was delighted with the places that kind of guided, pressured writing took me. Now in its 9th draft, after a lot of development with the phenomenal actors who have been brutally honest and artistically committed, I’m thrilled to be able to offer the play as part of the festival.”

A Closer Look At Countrie Matters

Countrie Matters considers the future of Shakespear’s Hamlet. When asked about the most rewarding part of performing Countrie Matters director Ellyn Stern (who also plays Ophelia) responds: “I’ve done scenes as Ophelia, and as Gertrude in the past, but never was able to do a full production playing Ophelia. A major regret. Matthew once said to me, this play is for those actors who were never able to play these parts when they were younger. It is difficult finding great roles for women, much less women who have evolved, and this gives me the chance to play Ophelia! I love the smart, quick witted Stoppardesque humor. This play completes the unrequited in Hamlet for me.”

For both Ellyn and her husband Richard, the roles were perfectly suited. Ellyn reveals, “I do feel that the roles are well suited. Ophelia has evolved in this play since being an emotional young woman. She’s smart, savvy, and knows what she wants. I was an emotional young woman, and through maturation, my emotions no longer rule my actions. Richard has a largessse that completely works with Fortinbras. After 38 years of marriage and working together on films, TV, and plays, I am delighted to again be sharing the virtual stage with him.”

Richard Epcar, who plays Fortinbras, adds, “I love playing my character, and I love the witty repartee between the characters. We are both well suited for our characters, however,” he laughs, “my character is very devious and narcissistic, things that I don’t think of as being associated with me.”

Ellyn and Richard’s daughter also plays their daughter in the play. When asked if this complicates things at all, Ellyn responded, “Not at all. I think it compliments and raises the bar.” Richard echoed this, saying “No that’s actually nice because we have that dynamic going in.”

When speaking to Matthew, we asked if the characters have lives outside of the slice shown within the context of the play. He responded, “The story goes that Alan Howard, in the title role of the 1980 RSC production of Richard II, was asked by a theatre critic, ‘So what are you doing while David Suchet [as Bolingbroke] has all these big scenes onstage during Act 2 and Act 3?’ He probably expected an answer like, ‘I’m taking a cigarette break in the alley out back,’ or, ‘I’m having a lie-down in my dressing room.’ What he got instead was Howard, saying without a moment’s pause, ‘I’m sailing back from Ireland.’ This doesn’t just open up a window to Howard’s process as an actor; I think it also displays what good actors always do — they look for clues in the text that help them solve the mystery of who these characters were before the play began, what they’re doing while other characters take the stage, and (if they live through it) who they might become after the play is over. A two-hour play is a series of mountain ranges. That doesn’t mean there aren’t valleys; it just means you don’t see them onstage. So to answer your question: yes, Hamlet et al do have lives outside the scenes of Countrie Matters. There’s the past they all share which encompasses the first act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, pretty much word for word; there are the intervening years between those scenes and the start of my play; and there are all the offstage scenes taking place in different parts of Elsinore as either intervening scenes between those in the current script, or simultaneous scenes. One of my unfinished novels is a prose version of Countrie Matters entitled The Player King, which would contain dream sequences (Hamlet dreams he’s Old Man Achilles, who chose long life over glory; Hamlet dreams he’s Old Man Alexander the Great, who survived his fever in Babylon and gave up his throne to become a holy man; Hamlet dreams he’s Julius Caesar in his nineties, ruling Rome from Alexandria with Cleopatra and their grandchildren); flashbacks which would show Horatio’s history, Phyllida’s childhood, and the happier days of Fortinbras and Ophelia’s marriage; and side scenes taking place in Elsinore during the action of the staged scenes, like a chaperoned meeting between Hamlet and Phyllida, an unchaperoned meeting between them which Ophelia interrupts and then Fortinbras interrupts, awkward dinners with everyone at the table either put in their place by the Chancellor or made fun of by a drunk Gravedigger, and peeks into the lives of Marcellus and Roberto. In other words, all the miniseries scenes.”

For a look into Matthew’s creative process, we asked if he writes for a certain amount of time each day, or writes a certain quantity (pages or chapters) each day, or only when inspiration strikes. He answered, “I write every day for at least four or five hours, either all at once or in batches (a couple of hours over morning coffee, an hour here and there during the day, a couple of hours after dinner). There were a few years in New York where I wrote a Shakespearean sonnet every day — usually but not always over coffee in the morning. Sometimes it would take an hour, sometimes it would take all day to build and edit and rebuild. For me, it’s not so much pages or word count as time. Like showing up for work. When I lived in New York, I had a full-time day job, and treated writing like a part-time job — twenty hours a week, two hours a day on weekdays, and ten hours over the weekend. I did those two weekday hours before going out for dinner or a play or to hear some music, and I split the weekend hours between Saturday and Sunday. I’ve always had at least two theatrical projects going on at the same time, so when I get drained or dry working on one, I can bounce over to the other.

“As for inspiration, I feel like I create the opportunity for it to hit me over the head and say, ‘Drop everything — I’m the best idea you’ve ever had, and you’re writing me now,’” Matthew adds. “For me, when I get behind the wheel, and I start the car, the road always shows up. Doing the work creates the words; starting to walk creates the path. If you keep that creative door open, something will always walk in without knocking and say ‘Write me.’ The readiness is all. I think ideas choose creators, so they can get written. It’s like what we call inspiration is really a time-traveling book or play or poem, which journeys back through the collective unconscious to a time before it was born, so it can pick a creative parent.

“And because you’ll probably ask, the idea for Countrie Matters came out of a conversation I had with my Australian friend Felicity Blake at a bar called St. Dymphna’s on East 4 th Street in Manhattan,” Matthew says. “She probably remembers how the conversation started better than I do (she always does), but by the end of it, we were riffing on a what-if Hamlet story: what if Hamlet, at the end of Act One of Shakespeare’s play, sat down to think for five minutes, said ‘Screw this,’ saddled his favorite horse, and rode off to Wittenberg? Pretty much the whole concept came out of that conversation, as well as the most important plot point: Hamlet and Ophelia had to get together at the end. ‘Yeah, I can do this,’ I thought to myself, but I didn’t really make any progress until I stopped trying to make it an echo chamber or a Hamlet industrial, and let the characters take over. And then I had to rein in Phyllida, because (as the only original character in the play) she started wanting to take over. I could quite literally have a companion piece to this play called Ophelia’s Daughter, using all the Phyllida scenes I wrote that no one has ever seen.”

Behind The Jewish Question

The Jewish Question is a play that explores cultural stereotypes, and was directed and written by Jeanmarie. “It’s good to be directing The Jewish Question, because I’m not sure the script is ready to be handed off to another director. I’m hoping, after the festival, it’ll be ready to send out to some other directors.”

Jeanmarie wrote the play during a workshop conducted by John Perovich, who plays Ash. “I originally became aware of The Jewish Question when Jeanmarie participated in an Advanced Playwright’s Workshop that I ran on Facebook in March,” Perovich explains. “Things had recently shut down as a result of COVID-19 and I thought something that I could do to stay focused and serve my community would be to offer a free online playwriting workshop for beginning level playwrights and advanced writers. Jeanmarie immediately began writing The Jewish Question in the workshop. It was a fast process. Jeanmarie was cranking out pages well ahead of every other writer in the workshop. I should mention that it’s not a competition to see who can write the fastest. That wasn’t the focus of the workshop. Each writer was moving through about a 4 week process to write a new full length play. Jeanmarie completed her first draft of the play within 2 weeks, I believe. She finished another complete draft within the next 2 weeks. When a writer is able to complete a draft quickly, when it’s on fire the way Jeanmarie’s writing was on fire, that’s usually a pretty good indication that the writer is onto something wonderful. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s usually a sure sign that something fantastic is in the works because the play is being written through passion and instinct — the play is being written quickly because it feels like it needs to be written right away. That’s a particular kind of writing that a playwright has to respect and jump into. Jeanmarie certainly jumped right into The Jewish Question.”

When asked about the similarities and differences between the parts he’s played before and the part he plays in The Jewish Question, John told us, “I don’t act that often because I am typically focused on my work as a playwright, dramaturg, and producer of new plays and new play development. The last role I had was Lord Astor in Brelby Theatre Company’s Peter and the Starcatcher — that was in 2017. Before that, Gonzalo in The Tempest at Brelby Theatre Company in 2015. Before that, it had been nearly 10 years since I performed as an actor in a full production. My time had been pretty much exclusively tied to new plays and new play development. So, workshops and readings — that is where I spend the majority of my time and that is what I love the most. Again, usually as a playwright, dramaturg, and producer — sometimes director. I have been working with various playwrights throughout the Phoenix Metro area with my company, Now & Then Creative Company, with Brelby Theatre Company (as the Director of New Work Development), and with The Phoenix Theatre Company, serving as their Festival Dramaturg for the Festival of New American Theatre.”

While writing the play, Jeanmarie admits that she had Jen Gantwerker, who plays Rebecca, in mind for the part. “When I found out Jeanmarie had written the role of Rebecca with me in mind, I was exceedingly flattered,” Jen says. “One way in which impostor syndrome manifests itself in my life is by convincing me that the roles I miss out on have gone to someone inherently ‘better’ than me, while the roles I get to play have landed in my lap purely by accident. But there is no way of explaining away a playwright imagining you in a role as they write it, so my brain was forced to accept the fact that a person I respect thinks I’m good at what I do. That felt pretty good. I was also excited to get to tell a story that felt so close to me, which is pretty rare. And as a bonus, I knew the role — the whole script, really — would be sharp and funny and challenging, because that’s who Jeanmarie is. The gift of writing like that is that it does a lot of the heavy lifting for you — so long as I stay present, the character kind of jumps off the page, fully-realized.”

Jen has been involved with The Jewish Question for a number of months now. When asked to describe her first reaction to the title and the play, and her evolving feelings and impressions about the project and her parts in it, she said, “My first impression of the title was that it evoked centuries of history, and when I read the script, that impression was confirmed. The play explores the tension between the past and the present in a way that I think is representative of how Judaism frames our experiences. On Passover, for example, we remember our ancestors leaving Egypt as if we were the ones who were set free. The specific evening captured within the pages of the script is so vividly drawn, and so accurate to the experiences of many people (myself included), but it also manages to capture the feeling of being Jewish in the 21st century — the way in which our history is inextricably bound up with our present, and the tension between Judaism as a culture and Judaism as a religion. And as the script has evolved, and we’ve dug deeper into the story being told, we have had an ongoing conversation about oppression, justice, and tikkun olam (‘repair of the world’) that has helped me clarify who I am, what I stand for, and how I see my place in the world. In the play, the introduction of Ash into Rebecca and Grace’s lives helps all three of them see beyond their own noses; likewise, the process of illuminating Jeanmarie’s vision has reminded me that having to articulate your opinions is a great way to figure out what they are.”

When asked about his first impression, John said, “My first reaction to the title was, ‘well, what’s the question?’ And as I continued to read the play, it began to feel like there are many, many questions throughout the play that one could feel is the Jewish question. I don’t know if that was Jeanmarie’s intention, but the impact on me as a reader was a powerful punch in the gut. I was left thinking and feeling that there are many nuanced and complicated questions being explored, many moments of confrontation that were uncomfortable and important to think about. I really enjoy my character, Ash. He is complicated and passionate, unwilling to back down from an argument. I appreciate Ash’s character because, unlike myself, he doesn’t stop himself from rolling up his sleeves and defending his convictions and political beliefs. I often feel that I am personally guarded around politics and Ash is not — he goes all in. I also appreciate the nuance, power, and vulnerability that Jeanmarie has given Ash. My favorite part of the play (selfishly) is a beautiful monologue that Jeanmarie has given Ash toward the end of the play that fully captures his beliefs — he fully articulates why he thinks and feels the way that he does. I’m excited for people to experience the surprises of The Jewish Question. I love the play.”

We also chatted with Ina Shivack, who plays Grace, asking her how she became involved in the project and what her feelings about the part and her experiences playing it have been. “I was approached by the playwright with whom I have worked before,” she tells us. “I think Jeanmarie knew that I would relate to the story of The Jewish Question and particularly to the character of Grace — that I would know what Grace sounds like and understand her sensibilities. I am thrilled to be playing this character. I share much of Grace’s background and perspective even if not the particulars of her politics. My involvement in the process of this play’s development has made me examine more closely the issues that are dealt with. In fact, I have a very close friend with whom I have always disagreed on the “Israel” question and I now find myself more accepting of what I used to consider her extreme viewpoint. We have been able to talk about an issue we’ve heretofore avoided.”

Discussing Pineapple And Other Options

Pineapple And Other Options explores the dark themes of depression and suicide. Jeanmarie not only wrote Pineapple And Other Options in addition to The Jewish Question, she also plays the minor role of Jan in the production. “I love playing Jan,” she told us. “She’s ‘easy,’ compared to the other characters. But that doesn’t mean I can TAKE it easy. Jan is the supervisor of the suicide hotline. She’s got a rookie on the phone who is alone in the office dealing with a life and death situation. Yes, Jan is confident. She’s been at it for a long time. But it’s a serious situation for which she is ultimately responsible. Once I get to the point where we’re performing, it’s no longer about my writing. My job is to stand up for Jan, make a case, as an actor, for her existence.”

We also asked Samantha King, who plays Helen, about her experiences participating in the play. “I have worked with the playwright on different projects for 30 years. Helen is a choice, meaty, multi-faceted role. It’s the Willy Loman of female parts. She is experiencing things that every woman her age can relate to; the loss of viability, questioning her life’s path, the chronic effects of patriarchy, being lovable, but not loved, etc. Her circumstances are different from mine, but we find her in an emotional moment that is so common, we’ve all been there.

It requires POUNDS of energy, but the part — being written for a woman of her age, by a woman of her age, is very easy to understand.”

When asked what the unique value of Pineapple And Other Options is to the world, Samantha said, “I appreciate Jeanmarie’s resurrection and examination of lost history. Her plays do this often — tell the truth about something, and turn our understanding on its head, because we had been taught something else. I am an educator, and extremely frustrated with the current system of education in this country. Helen and I share that. The play brings forth and examines education from a different perspective. We learn a lot from a Betsy whose instincts about how children learn are far more on point than the Betsy who has never set foot in a public school classroom, but is currently tasked with their education.”

Debra Lyman, who plays Betsy, added to this, saying that “In February, 2019, Jeanmarie gave me the wonderful opportunity to read the part of “Betsy” in Pineapple And Other Options. I have been involved with the project since then and have watched it grow to where we are now. The character I play, Elizabeth “Betsy” English Pennington (1783 to 1857), was a woman who lived and survived a traumatic event in her childhood and went on to marry, have a family, and champion for the best free education for all children no matter their background, economic status or culture. She has become a person I love and admire greatly because of her fortitude and strength. Much of her character is based on Jeanmarie’s concept of her through her own research and script. So I have built on that with direction from Pamela and Jeanmarie and I have enjoyed watching Betsy morph and grow into a character portrayal I think Betsy herself would find captivating. Jeanmarie has also provided Betsy with some gorgeous, and ugly, and terrific memories and moments in the play that are written so well — poetic — and transcend time. This has been another gift of Betsy. I am also looking forward to audience interpretation and the overall reception of the play and its many facets.”

The unique value of the play, according to Debra, is described in this way: “Pineapple And Other Options is like sitting at a drug store counter and getting an ice cream sundae. You wait with anticipation and then there it is placed down on a white paper doily in front of you, waiting for you to dig in. Cold vanilla ice cream wrapped in delicious chocolate syrup, whipped cream piled high and a cherry on top. You know it’s going to taste wonderful and even if you don’t like the cherry (which I don’t) — the flavors and texture and variety of it all make you thrilled again and reminiscent and satisfied, perhaps happy. There are so many textures, flavors and layers to Pineapple And Other Options and different voices from other eras and times that address today and past, social problems and human frailties then and now. There is life and death, wisdom of our elders and generations before us, education vs. learning influences, woman sexuality and love for self, scars and healing — emotional and physical, and of course sweet Pineapple. There is so much to Pineapple And Other Options and its many facets will appeal to a wide range of audience members which I think makes it very valuable. Plus the story itself and the general theme of survival is one that we can all identify within our own survival stories or just living. It also has this wonderful opportunity for beautiful staging and set design that could be of huge value not only to set designers and technical artists but to the audience.”

The Opportunities And Challenges Of Virtual Theatre

Virtually presenting a production may sound simple enough in theory, but there is definitely a gap between Zoom and face-to-face interaction. How can the Zoom experience be elevated from mere “live” theatre to a legitimate performance worthy of a paying audience? Each play will be approaching this in a unique way.

“These are very trying times, living and learning to work within the confines of the pandemic. But as artists, we need to push ahead,” says Ellyn. “We can’t let it stop us! It is not new, working with Zoom. We have done Zoom readings with other plays. I have often said that I’d need a complete blood transfusion if I were to consider doing anything but being an actor. Acting is something we love to do, we must do. It is our life, our blood, our passion. So even the pandemic will not stop us! The actors I have cast are the very best, highly accomplished, and will all be bringing their A-games to this performance. If we are able to do this one day in a theatre and have a full run, this is the cast I would love to have. I believe an audience will be thrilled with this.”

Richard adds: “As with any piece, whatever medium you’re doing it in, you have to commit to it fully and make it believable. Zoom can be very limiting in many ways, but that’s the medium that we’re using now, so we have to do the best we can with it. Ideally it would be nice in the future to have a fully staged production of this play. Because it is a wonderful piece and deserves to be seen by an audience.”

Jeanmarie says that, “As a director, with The Jewish Question, my plan is to make the reading as simple as I possibly can. I’d like to add some music, but we’ll see. What matters, at this point, are the words and the actors’ ability to integrate and communicate them. I’ll display the script onscreen and the actors. Debra Lyman will read the stage directions, an extremely important part of any reading. Her descriptions of the staging bring the script to life. Much like the old radio plays. It’s challenging to convey sexual tension and romantic connection when the actors are in two different places, and I look forward to working that out in rehearsal. We can only do the best we can. As an actor, in Pineapple And Other Options, I’ll prepare to the point where I could almost be off book. When we do the reading, I pour everything I’ve got into it. Jan actually only exists in one spot and on the phone, so mine is the easiest job.”

Jen adds: “I miss live theatre. It has an energy and immediacy that it’s hard to capture virtually. But for me as an actor, this format also presents the unique opportunity to watch every scene, even the ones I’m not in, which allows me to remain dialed in to the other actors and the arc of the show in a way that isn’t possible from backstage. This definitely adds a different kind of spark into the performance that I hope the audience notices and appreciates. There’s also something special about viewers essentially being in close-up with every actor the whole time. It’s possible to take in every flicker of emotion in a way you can’t from the back of even a small theatre space. Finally, something I love about new works is the post-show talkbacks, which always remind me that even “classic” shows were once being seen and discussed for the first time. I think the discussions planned for this festival will be vibrant and invigorating and crackling with intelligence, and I hope plenty of folks will log in and see my prediction come true!”

Meanwhile, John says that, “There are many difficulties with streaming play readings. The greatest loss, in my opinion, is losing the rhythm of the language because of the delays that are inherent with online performances. Fortunately, I have been working with Jeanmarie on this play for several months and doing other online readings, too. I believe that we have been able to capture the overlaps and natural rhythms in dialogue that are difficult to capture with online readings. Audiences can expect to hear the natural rhythms in the dialogue that we are missing from live performances. Nothing we do through Zoom or streaming services will ever replace or match live performance, but the intent of the actors, the emotion, the conviction to the story that is being told — we will capture that, we will share it with audiences, and I believe it is something worthy of everyone’s time, no matter where they may live! Join us, no matter where you might be.”

Ina says, “I see Zoom as just another form of fourth wall. Though the experience might be different for the performers, who may not get as much feedback, I think the audience will see essentially what it would see in a theater. With our lives being in such disarray, we see many attempts to “normalize” the totally abnormal. When was theater ever mundane? It’s a festival! It’s an event! It announces and reinforces what we always expect from theater — something special!”

Samantha states: “I think the only bridge between Zoom and face-to-face interaction is humanity. This is a shared exile, and we all want and need to touch base with shared humanity. I am on Zoom for work with children who are masked in a face-to-face classroom, and it is bizarre and dystopian to say the least. But they see me — my eyes, my smile. They know and remember me, and as long as I’m myself, they have some sort of anchor. This, of course, translates to theatre. The energy exchange between a live audience and people on stage at a live performance is not replicable on Zoom. But the work — my internal work as an actor — doesn’t change. My awareness of what the audience is supposed to receive doesn’t change. If it’s genuine, it should come across. I have seen amazing performances over Zoom, and been truly moved. The human need for good storytelling hasn’t changed. I am responsible for translating the story. Anyone who comes to a Zoom performance is willing to hear a story. We are still in an exchange, and the fact that it’s in little boxes on a screen shouldn’t change the quality of the story.”

Finally, Debra says, “I think we are still trying to search for ways to bridge that gap, and it is a difficult one. I think the best way is that all involved in the production are familiar with each other and the material as they would be in a live theatre production. I think it is also important that the actor’s background via Zoom have nothing or very little for the audience to look at while watching the performance. Also the actor’s use of voice and changes in voice with some physical movement to create a bigger characterization. When I say bigger I mean believable and intentional variation to keep the audience drawn in to listening, watching and believing the production. It’s a difficult task but I think that is what needs to be brought to the “Zoom theatre” especially within the staged reading format.”

Defining ‘Radical Inclusive Theatre’

As part of the ATM Fall Theatre Festival, a panel discussion facilitated by Pamela Sterling and unpacking the meaning and significance of “radical inclusion” will be held on Sunday, October 25 at 4 pm.

We asked Jeanmarie to define the term ‘Radical Inclusive Theatre,’ which appears on ATM Production’s logo. “Radical Inclusion is an evolved term for ‘universal access,’ she said. “When our company was first incorporated, in 2012, our name was Universal Access Productions. That meant and continues to mean that we create and present work that is designed, from the get-go, to include as artists, technicians and patrons the broadest swath of demographics possible. That takes on a lot of different forms. Our film, HERETIC, which should be released on YouTube November 1st, has an on-camera ASL interpreter and an off-camera voice actor. There is a rich soundscape, and subtitles, which are automatically translated into many different languages. The Fall Festival presents in four plays an offering of SIX powerful, bold leading roles for ‘women of an age,’ the demographic most discriminated against in the theatre… and so on. There’s no end to the creative ways we will continue to approach the challenge of making our work accessible to everyone.”

ATM Productions accepts donations for any amount for the Fall Festival, and The audience is encouraged to order tickets and pay what they can. The Zoom link will be sent to the ticket-holder’s address. For convenience, an All-Access Pass is available for $50.

For more information or to reserve tickets, go to

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