Creativity in a world of Zoom

I’ve been thinking about how Damn Cheek has progressed in the last year and blogged about it on the Damn Cheek website. Damn Cheek is the theatrical production company which I co founded and which takes up a fair bit of my time. I thought our Covid journey worth sharing so what follows is a version of that blog.

The story so far

What a difference a year makes. Damn Cheek started 2020 with a visit to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre with the latest performance in our extensive tour of The Door, followed that up with a dinner theatre evening based on my novel Blessed Assurance, complete with band, and were on the point of a premiere of Maria MacAteer’s On a Wicklow Hill when we went into lockdown.

The decision to replace the premiere with a reading of the play on Zoom set us on a path which has been both challenging and rewarding. It’s interesting to look back and remind ourselves of the way our Zoom offering has developed. Our second outing was a repeat of the dinner theatre evening, with some adjustments to the music and audience members providing their own dinner.  We then moved on to two plays by Brendan Murray – Big Baby, which involved music and multiple characters, and Collywobbles with its hints of menace. By this stage we felt we were hitting our stride and when we followed up with Kelvin Segger’s one man play Diary of a Madman, director Willie Elliott took the opportunity to experiment with more movement and staging. This was so successful that we ended up doing it four times – helped no doubt by the fact that a performance only required two people to make it work. After that there was no going back. With my play,  Little Brother we added another camera and mixed a cast of two in one place with a third on Zoom. In our Space Within evening we had different takes on Zoom by seven writers, and seven different approaches and technical challenges. Last month we went darker and had a silent movie from Brendan, a ghost story from Stephen Thompson and a sinister character returning to haunt a writer from Maria.

Taking the next step

In the process we have built a sustainable business, an audience and a community and have been able to support the cast and crew through the donations to our JustGiving page. We’ve felt the time has come to move on from JustGiving and the next show, a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, is bookable through Ticket Source, still retaining a strong element of ‘pay what you feel’ but now underpinned by a minimum charge. This will give us a base to keep the shows going, to the benefit of our audience and wider community, keep people practising their craft and give them what amounts to a welcome ‘thank you’ payment. Another step in our development, another sign that we have been able to turn the current crisis into a creative opportunity.

And finally, the Valentine’s Day Special, which includes drama, song and poetry, is at 6pm on the 14th – for about 70 minutes. I’ve contributed a short play, incorporating some love poems. If you want to join us – Book your ticket online now!

Tony Earnshaw

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