Deja Zoom

October 9, 2020

Parallel 45’s Alphabraic Livestream

Micah Mabey
Staff Writer

   Thursday nights aren’t always the most party-filled nights.

    Pre-COVID, they’d be the nights where you would say, “I’m gonna catch up on all the homework I have to do just minutes before the deadline.” Lately it’s even been, “I’m gonna sit around and do nothing because why would I do anything during a pandemic?”
   However, Thursday night became interesting on Sept. 24, when Traverse City based theatre-troupe Parallel 45 put on an online staging of their new original work, “Deja Zoom.” Performed live last under the title of “The Alphabet Experience,” “Deja Zoom” is a livestreamed, social-distanced version of the original play.
   As written for young audiences, “Deja Zoom” is a play of plays; one for each letter of the alphabet, all performed in under an hour.
   Before the streaming started we were met with testimonials from members of the Traverse City community. The owners of MAWBY Winery, author and founder of the National Writers Series Doug Stanton, the co-president of the Parallel 45 board Paula Jo Kemler, and Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers all had words to support the project and work that P45 have been up to.
   It’s hard to pull off a livestream show. There’s bound to be technical issues and lag time. But even with the faces disappearing within the greenscreens and dead space between lines (which is forgivable and in some cases actually made for some pretty funny moments), it made for a more entertaining Thursday night than normal.
   Some of the original show’s physicality was missing from the evening’s performance. For the most part we could only see the top half of each actor, so bits like the river dance were lacking since its original joke was that it was all foot play. Another instance was when the whole cast had a costume change into a flock of flamingos.

   To make up for those moments there were short plays that went along with a new energy more fit for the screen, and more fit for the times, compared to the original.

Photo by HarpeStar

   One such mini-play was performed by troupe member Nick Viox. In this section of the original play the letter Q stood for “Questions,” and Viox would run around in the audience hosting a one-minute game show with participants being chosen from the seats.

   This time, the letter Q was a little different.

   Q stood for the ever popular: Quarantine. But don’t worry. Viox still found a way to have it be a gameshow. Instead of quizzing the audience, he just drank from a bottle of Jack Daniels and talked to Reese WitherSpoon. And yeah, you guessed it. It was just a spoon. A soup spoon that he just dressed up to look like Reese Witherspoon. It’s difficult to name a favorite letter of the alphabet. That’s a pretty strange thing to spend your free time on, letter-picking. But Q is a decent choice.
   The show was a powerful hour of online content. Live shows are hard enough —performing through a digital environment is even harder. A strong setup, designed by Brittany Powell Merenda, really pulled the whole thing together. Making it so that every actor could be working in the same house, socially distanced and safe, while also editing the live show on the fly is not an easy task.

   So keep your eye out. If we’re lucky, the team at Parallel 45 will continue to release some digital theatre to keep our eyes from rotting out of their head while we’re in the middle of this coming winter.

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