By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
For a group of San Diego actors, the end of in-person classes, performances and audiences does not mean the end to perfecting their craft. Since the shutdown began, these actors have started a web series to make light of the foibles of Zoom hang-outs and buying toilet paper. A new episode of “Socially Distanced” is released on YouTube every Monday night.
“We came up with this idea of utilizing Zoom in creating this web series where we can safely practice social distancing and in a satirical way talk about some of the concepts and ideas that are going on right now with COVID-19,” creator Jeff Willy said.
Each episode is written and produced by Willy and Kristen Trammell and focuses on an eccentric family in social isolation from each other. They enlist a cadre of local actors to play the family, many of whom they knew through the LA Acting Studio in San Diego. The episodes are scripted with each family member joining and leaving the video chat at different cues.
“It’s a balance between being scripted but then also having a little bit of improvisation within it,” Willy, who directs and acts in the episodes in addition to writing and producing.
The actors have had to adapt to this new method of performance. Internet lags and even just not being in the same physical space makes reacting to other actors more difficult. Some of those lags and cuts have been kept in the episodes because they lend an air of authenticity to what people are experiencing.
“We try to time it with cues and we do some rehearsals, but a lot of this is really just being flexible and trying to adapt to figure out how to interact with people and act in any medium,” Willy explained.
As coronavirus hit the U.S., acting opportunities quickly dried up. As it has continued, some of those have picked up again, according to Willy. There are many online acting competitions like monologue challenges and casting calls. Auditions are being held over Skype. Certain San Diego studios have also brought their acting classes online, including the LA Acting Studio Willy is a part of.
Many of the actors in San Diego are non-union so do not have the benefits of being in the SAG-AFTRA union to weather out the pandemic. The creators of “Socially Distanced” have yet to find a way to monetize the series, so the focus of the endeavor is giving the actors a creative outlet during a time of stress.
“It’s more about the art form, more than anything. It gives people a medium to express themselves creatively and just continue to connect, even though we’re not physically connecting,” Willy said.
Find the webisodes at bit.ly/2T0tNe8 or find them on the Fourth Wall Entertainment channel on YouTube. or find them on the Fourth Wall Entertainment channel on YouTube.
— Editor Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.