After months of waiting, Main Street Theater is opening up its virtual doors to welcome theatergoers back to the stage. On Oct. 15, Main Street is back in action with the Jack Holmes play, “RFK: A Portrait of the Life of Robert F. Kennedy”.
Main Street, along with many other theatres, had to put a hold on their in-person performances due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, after months of effort, Main Street is relieved to be getting back on track. For remote director Rebecca Udden, this has been a long journey.
“The pandemic has taken everything out of the theater and onto the web,” Udden said. “This isn’t a skill we had in our toolbox, so it has been a bit of a climb to find our place in this new universe.”
“RFK: A Portrait of the Life of Robert F. Kennedy”
“RFK” follows the life of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from right after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to Robert’s death in 1968. The audience sees a view of Robert narrating the last four years of his life and views as he battles through his grief over JFK’s death and his political struggles.
For lead actor Joel Sandel, it’s a play that holds a special place for him. The troupe performed “RFK” at Main Street Theater four years ago, and Sandel said the memory will forever be one of the most precious experiences of his life.
Sandel hopes that the audience will leave with an understanding of RFK’s true character and take inspiration from the show in regards to their outlook on politics and hate.
“Bobby Kennedy (RFK) was a passionate advocate for underprivileged Americans, with a particular interest in the Civil Rights movement, he was also a very outspoken opponent of the war in Vietnam,” Sandel said. “The humanity of Bobby Kennedy touches me more deeply than any character I’ve ever brought to the stage.”
In-person vs. virtual performances
In a theater, Sandel said it’s easier for audiences to suspend their disbelief and take him in as RFK. So, he hopes that people will be able to be just as entranced during the video performance.
“Video becomes much more literal, so I want the folks who watch the show to understand that I’m simply a proxy for this great great man,” Sandel said. “The most unique aspect of this video version is trying to capture that same magic in my living room. “
Choosing the right play
Udden said the hardest part of production was choosing which play to show. Originally, Main Street Theater had planned for a series of three solo shows, but they couldn’t get the streaming rights for one, and Actors’ Equity, the labor union representing American actors and stage managers in the theatre, had restrictions about doing the others in the theater.
“So ‘RFK’ was the only one the actor (Sandel) felt comfortable filming himself,” Udden said. “The difficulties are mainly with Actors’ Equity, who are very strict about who can do what. Fortunately, Joel is used to filming himself, many actors are nowadays, so it was really a matter of getting good lighting and a good camera to him.”
Udden also said the timing of the show couldn’t be better.
“It is heartbreaking to hear his words from half a century ago and realizing that we are still stuck in the same place,” Udden said. “I hope people will want to watch it.”
The play will be showing online from Thursday, Oct. 15 through the 25 through ShowTIX4U.com, with tickets available on Main Street’s main website. The theater’s other virtual shows such as “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” and “Main Street at the Mic Series” will be up in the coming weeks.
Photo of Joel Sandel courtesy of Main Street Theater