NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Imagine a live theatrical broadcast/online experience that offers 32 of Nashville’s finest actors with a “Groundhog Day“-like twist on the COVID age. Pipeline-Collective Producing Artistic Directors David Ian Lee and Karen Sternberg have imagined such an event and it becomes reality on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 10 AM Central to 10 PM Central on NECAT (Comcast channel 9, ATT U-verse channel 100), Nashville’s Education, Community and Arts Television Network, as well as live streams.
“What we are attempting to achieve through this world-premiere work by Claudia Barnett is unlike anything else that’s being produced at a national level,” Lee recently emailed Stage Critic as he, Sternberg, Lee’s co-director Melinda Sewak, and rest of their “Outside Of Here” creative team prepared for the unique and ambitious offering. “It will be a straight 12-hour performance, with Karen on set throughout. In that time, she’ll perform the same two-person scene with dozens of scene partners.
“Claudia has written a piece designed to be replayed as a time loop, so each viewer’s experience will be different. An earlier viewing will be different from a viewing late in the day, and someone who sticks around for multiple iterations of the scene will appreciate the subtleties and the overall arc of the piece,” Lee explained. “This has been a logistical puzzle to assemble at every level – we’ve been developing the play since the spring, we’re working in a new medium (television and livestream), we’re bringing together 32 performers, we’re assembling an agile technical team, and we’re doing it all while implementing stringent Covid safety protocols. Because of the livestream, the piece can be viewed from anywhere with wifi!”
In addition to the Nashville broadcast viewers can access the livestream from anywhere through Pipeline-Collective’s Facebook page or NECAT’s livestream. The performance is free to watch though donations will be shared among the artists working on the piece. Click here to support the “Outside Of Here” artists.
Joining Sternberg in the cast are Rebekah Alexander, Matthew Benenson Cruz, Rona Carter, Joel Diggs, Rosemary Fossee, Galen Fott, Diego Gomez, Denice Hicks, Josh Inocalla, Jonah Jackson, Josh Kiev, Ang Madaline-Johnson, Leslie Marberry, Mary McCallum, Kate McGunagle, Nat McIntyre, René Millán, Sabrina Moore, Beth Anne Musiker, Gerold Oliver, Eric Pasto-Crosby, Eve Petty, Taryn Pray, Natalie Rankin, Elliott Robinson, J.R. Robles (also the show’s technical director), Jordan Scott, Tamiko Robinson Steele, Shawn Whitsell, Garris Wimmer, and Sarah Zanotti. NECAT’s technical team consists of Samantha Burns, Alex Keenum, and Will Ybarra; Phillip Franck is production design consultant; Eric Franzen is costume designer; Eli Van Sickel is sound designer; production support is provided by Alex Drinnen and David Johnson; Sejal Mehta, M.D. is COVID Protocols Consultant and Lee is the production’s certified COVID compliance officer.
Those working on it said inspiration for “Outside Of Here” came not only from life in the COVID era but from such pre-pandemic works as the 1993 Bill Murray hit film mentioned earlier; Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame,” with its characters apparently trapped at world’s end (and which includes the line “Outside of here it’s death” from which the play’s title is drawn); and the masterful absurdist repetitions of Eugène Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano.”
The project also gave Pipeline-Collective a chance to build on relationships and virtual storytelling techniques developed in The Salon, its new works program. “We moved The Salon online from the beginning (of the pandemic) and focused on local and national community-building with playwrights, directors, and actors,” Sternberg said in a press release. “It’s this community of more than 300 people that inspires us, that pushes us creatively, and that provides us more support than we can ever return. Being able to realize this massive yet safe project with dozens of local performers and technicians after so much time physically apart is deeply gratifying. And working with Claudia Barnett, who’s one of the most poetic playwrights we know, has been the perfect fit for this project.”
Part of that emphasis on safety means no live audience at the NECAT studios. It also means the show’s fully vaccinated actors won’t share the same physical space until performance day. “That’s part of the magic, the unpredictable element. That’s where planning and inspiration collide and create something compelling,” Sternberg noted.
Pipeline-Collective has kept up with the latest safety guidelines issued by the CDC, Metro Nashville, and the performing artists’ unions such as SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association. In addition to everyone working on “Outside of Here” being fully vaccinated, every person in the building will be masked for the duration of the performance unless they’re on camera.
“Outside Of Here” is produced in collaboration with Cameron McCasland, who serves as the Director of Content and Member Relations for NECAT. “We’re so thrilled to partner with Cameron on this project,” said Sternberg. “He has an unwavering enthusiasm for unorthodox work, and we’re eager to branch out beyond conventional theatrical spaces. The PEG Studio at NECAT is literally the only place where we could make what we’re trying to make. We consider ourselves so fortunate to have found such a great creative partner.”
“Innovation is key to the work we do,” Lee concluded. “We believe in theatrical magic on a shoestring budget, and ‘Outside Of Here’ is stretching us in many ways. We’re a theatre company. We’ve never produced something that’s one-part theatre, one-part endurance art, one-part multicamera live television event. This is going to be wild.”