6th Street Playhouse streams two-person play live online

“This is an opportunity for the community to come together ... as we are venturing into a new era of virtual theater,” said the company’s artistic director.|

By the time the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation in mid-March of public events, the 6th Street Playhouse production of “Sweeney Todd” in Santa Rosa had played for only one weekend.

“It was cut short right when the virus set in,” said actress Gillian Eichenberger, who appeared in the show with her partner, Andre Amarotico.

“The silver lining was that we got to do the show at all,” Amarotico said.

The couple has been self-quarantined since then in their Corte Madera home, but they’ll return to the 6th Street stage, with no live audience present, for the theater’s new production of “Turn of the Screw,” opening Oct. 23.

The pair will perform on the playhouse’s small Monroe studio stage throughout the show’s two-weekend run, and their performances will be filmed by five cameras and streamed on Vimeo.

“This is an opportunity for the community to come together and support the 6th Street Playhouse, as we are venturing into a new era of virtual theater,” said Jared Sakren, the company’s artistic director.

“We recognize that our patrons miss the communal experience of coming together to experience live theater and want to make our livestream and on-demand opportunities as close to the real thing as possible," he added.

As members of the same household, Eichenberger and Amarotico are able to rehearse and perform together at the theater in compliance with virus protocols, socially distancing with the director and camera operators.

“It’s really ideal under the circumstances,” Amarotico said.

“We will be onstage together,” Eichenberger added. “We’ve been quarantined together, we have been tested and we’re OK.”

This version of the Gothic classic “Turn of the Screw” is playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of the 1898 novella by Henry James. It’s the spooky story of a governess who cares for two children at a remote country estate and becomes convinced the place is haunted.

Eichenberger plays the governess responsible for the two young children, a boy and a girl. Amarotico plays all of the other characters in the story, including the cranky housekeeper Mrs. Grose and Miles, the young boy.

“The little girl character doesn’t have any lines, but she is featured for a moment,” Amarotico said.

Despite the multiple characters Amarotico plays, makeup and costume changes are minimal, the actor explained.

“It’s mostly up to me to show what distinguishes the characters from each other, and that’s an exciting opportunity for me,” he said.

The show relies more on lighting than sets to establish the mood, and again, most of the atmosphere is suggested by the actors’ performances.

“Andre and I will be creating this world together to tell a creepy yarn,” Eichenberger said. “We’ll be live onstage every time.”

The production will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. Oct. 23-25, Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1, with 2 p.m. matinee showings Oct. 24 and 31. Tickets are priced from $15 to $50. Tickets and instructions for accessing the show are available at 6thstreetplayhouse.com.

Since the show is running during Halloween season, the theater invites audience members to take snapshots of themselves dressed in costumes to watch the Oct. 31 performance and post those photos on the 6th Street Playhouse and Instagram pages.

“ ‘Turn of the Screw’ is just the first step back for the playhouse,” said Anne Clark, the newly appointed managing director of the 6th Street Playhouse. “Our virtual season will open up all sorts of new opportunities for community involvement going forward.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

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