Among the innovative things that local theater companies have come up with as stay-at-home entertainments, most have been radio plays or stage works recorded on video. But on Thursday night Berkeley Rep is premiering an original film piece shot in performers' own homes, featuring some serious Broadway talent.
The Waves in Quarantine is a new spin on a musical adaptation of Virginia Woolf's The Waves, which originally premiered decades ago but was performed in a revised version in New York in 2018. The original adaptation was a collaboration of director Lisa Peterson and composer David Bucknam, and Berkeley Rep Artistic Director Johanna Pfaelzer has had her eye on it since working on the developmental production of it three years ago at New York Stage and Film. That version brought in Broadway star and four-time Tony Award nominee Raúl Esparza.
"The musical adaptation of ‘The Waves’ is a project that Lisa and Raúl and I have been in a long-term conversation about," Pfaelzer tells the Mercury News this week. "As the pandemic took hold, they began to imagine a way to make use of this time of isolation, shutdown, and longing — whose themes are so poignantly paralleled in Woolf’s novel itself."
The new musical film focuses on the inner lives of six friends, and utilizes Woolf's lyrical, stream-of-consciousness prose in musical form.
The Berkeley Rep version features Esparza along with Tony winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), Carmen Cusack (Bright Star), Nikki Renée Daniels (Book of Mormon), Darius de Haas (Kiss of the Spider Woman), and Manu Narayan (My Fair Lady). It's directed by Peterson and features cinematography by Zelmira Gainza.
"Making films (and making them remotely!) is certainly new territory for Berkeley Rep," Pfaelzer says, speaking to the Mercury News. "But this time has required that we all learn new ways of supporting artists, engaging with audiences, and sharing stories. I am incredibly proud of the form-breaking work that this team has created, and can’t wait to bring it to an audience."
The Waves in Quarantine premieres Thursday, April 29, on demand. It's free to watch but donations are encouraged, and you can learn more here. Also, at 6 p.m. this evening, there's a live Q&A with Peterson, Esparza, Pfaelzer, and composer/lyricist Adam Gwon, who wrote additional music and lyrics for the piece. RSVP for the Zoom here.
The film will be available on demand from April 29 to May 28. Meanwhile, Berkeley Rep hopes to restart live productions in September, and their next season includes seven plays, including three world premieres.