Online-only theater was born during the height of the pandemic, and Seattle’s Rainy Day Artistic Collective is keeping the form going with “Twisted Tales,” a festival of original one-act plays inspired by well-known stories. “Twisted Tales,” which features an international cast including Stephanie Kamau of Olympia, runs Dec. 2-4.
It’s the second edition of “Twisted Tales” for the collective, which began producing digital theater in February 2021 and plans to move toward a hybrid model. “It was very popular with our community last year, and people really enjoyed it, so we brought it back,” said Jack Séamus Conley, the collective’s artistic director.
The collective invited playwrights to submit 10- to 15-minute-long plays that started with familiar tales, then worked with directors to put together a program. “In the festival this year, we have a piece based on Greek mythology,” Conley told OLY ARTS. “We have a piece based on ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider.’ We have pieces based on classic fairy tales like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. We have a superhero-themed piece. We try to have a variety.”
There’ll be some surprises in store, said Kamau, who is playing a pixie named Frostblossom in a piece called “Your Friendly Local HOA.” “Twisted Tales is particularly fun,” she said. “It has such a fun spin on some classic tales.”
The festival is divided into two programs, one with five plays and the other with four plays and three monologues from Conley’s “Dorothy, Mary, Wendy, Alice: Grown,” which the collective plans to produce next year. Each program will be streamed twice, with about half of the shows recorded in advance and half performed live for each performance. “For the very first time ever, we’re producing in this part festival a one-act piece that we’re pre-recording because one actor is playing both parts, and it’s not possible to do it any other way,” Conley said.
He and collective co-founder Laura Uyeki are gearing up for another first: They aim to produce “Dorothy, Mary, Wendy, Alice” on stage somewhere in Seattle. “Although of course traditional stage theater is wonderful and isn’t going anywhere, we think that virtual theater is the way of the future,” he said. “We want to keep our national and international community connected with us. So eventually, our season will be split evenly between physical stage projects and virtual stage projects.”
“Our community spans all time zones of the United States,” he added. “We’ve worked with artists from Mexico, England, and New Zealand.” Kamau, whose onstage acting experience includes productions at The Evergreen State College, is also excited about making connections far from home. “In my first play, the director was on the East Coast, and I would have never met her if I only did in-person acting,” she said.
“I love the ability to be flexible in rehearsals and the unique challenge of settings,” she added. The collective’s plays sometimes use props and settings that are within actors’ homes and sometimes place the players’ Zoom squares within a background of, say, a castle, using Open Broadcaster Software. The free program also allows a producer to add sound effects and move the video feeds around the screen.
Creating a virtual space has its challenges, but a digital theater company doesn’t need to find — or pay for — performance space, something that’s helped Conley and Uyeki to launch Rainy Day with unusual speed. The duo, roommates as well as collaborators, created the collective in August of 2020 and began producing work in February 2021. In less than two years, the collective has produced four full-length plays — including October’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which starred Ejay Amor, recently seen on stage in Olympia Family Theater’s “Dragons Love Tacos” — and nearly a dozen festivals.
“We also regularly host script readings that anyone can attend,” Conley said. “That’s a big way that we build community with low stakes and no audience, and it also helps us choose our main stage shows.” (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)
Photos courtesy Rainy Day Artistic Collective.
Program A at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3 p.m. Dec. 3
Program B at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 and 3 p.m. Dec. 4
Free with $10 donation suggested