James Carrington made his Forward Theatre debut as ‘Jim Fingal’ in the production of The Lifespan of a Fact. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Carrington was able to quickly adapt and respond to the demands and challenges of a transition to an online show format. These were his takeaways from this experience.
Q: How was your first mainstage production experience with Forward? What were you expecting?
A: Everything that I was expecting came to fruition. I have a lot of friends who have worked at Forward and I’ve seen a bunch of their shows. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things, so I was very excited to be a part of their family; and that's exactly what happened. I just felt supported at all times and number one is that I know Forward is committed to excellent storytelling and I feel like we did that even though it was in a very different environment. I’m very proud of it and I’m proud to be a part of the Forward family now.
Q: How did you react and respond to the request to transition the live show into an online video presentation?
A: It was automatic because I was already committed to the project. I was very nervous and sad because we love to be on stage and we love to do what we want to do. It was a new process that nobody knew how to do, but I knew that everybody was going into it together. That made me feel better knowing that we were all going to support each other.
Q: What challenges or obstacles did you face during the transition of moving the production online?
A: Number one obstacle was learning all the tech, all of the apps, and how they work. That was a huge, steep learning curve. Next was finding out how to connect to our fellow scene partners. We are in different houses across many miles, so how were we going to be able to connect? That's the number one most important thing is to connect with your fellow actor. But we did it and we learned a lot but it was always a struggle. Combining film and theater acting together, film acting is completely different from theater acting but you had to try to put both of them together, which is very hard and challenging, but I think we got a good balance of both.
Q: How did you get comfortable connecting with your fellow actors remotely?
A: We set up a Zoom room so we were able to see each other. That was number one. Honestly, just seeing your scene partner helped so much because being able to connect and look into their eyes was so incredibly helpful. If there was no way to see each other, we would not have been able to do this. Just being able to talk to each other about the problems that we had, everything was on the table. We were able to communicate our frustrations, our fears and our hopes so that was nice. Everybody just supported us and wanted us to be able to do the best job that we could do.
Q: What do you miss most about live shows?
A: I miss all of it. The big thing I miss is being on stage with other actors and I miss being in the rehearsal room with our director, the other actors, and the stage manager. I miss the audience, of course, especially in a comedy. Where does the laugh work? Is the joke funny? Are we doing a good job? The audience will tell you if the show is working. I miss the little things. I miss costume fittings. I miss the first day of table work where we are all together talking about the show in-person. I missed a lot of it. Being in-person with each other is so important as storytellers. We want to connect to each other.
Q: Are there any messages in the show that you think connect to our current climate right now?
A: The show is pretty relevant to what's happening right now. The biggest thing that I drew from it is the importance of truth and the importance of who is telling the story and who is telling the truth. Being able to discern for yourself what is fact and what is fiction. I think that is important for people to take upon themselves.
Q: Are there aspects of being online that you think have made this experience positive?
A: It was a great learning experience and that’s important because I think this is the way a lot of theater will be done for the foreseeable future. So that was good to learn and be a part of one of the first productions that is like this. I think another pro is that the show can be seen by other people who are not necessarily able to go into a theater, whether they are too far away or for health reasons. Although, there isn’t a place quite like live theater, but it’s great that it can be seen by different communities and learning how to adapt to online theater.
Q: In retrospect, how was your experience overall? Did the show meet your expectations? Would you do anything different next time?
A: Yes, there are definitely things I know I can do better. Knowing more of the technology, knowing more of how to set up a space and lighting and things like that are extremely helpful. Did the show meet my expectations? I think what's important is that I had to adjust my expectations for an online performance. I can’t judge it from my past experience because I've been on stage and this is the only thing I've done like this. I can’t say whether it meets my expectations because I don't know, I had a great time and I learned a lot and I love the company and I love the cast and I think we all worked really hard. I'm very proud of the work we did and I'm very happy and humbled that it is being so well received. So I learned a lot and will take that forward if I do something like this again.
Q: How do you feel that the world of theater has responded to calls for action to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion? Have you seen anything that is admirable and that theater companies should replicate?
A: Just to cut it quickly because that could take forever, I do see a big shift and I hope the shift continues. It could be tricky. People can see a trend and hop on it and three months later it kind of fades away. And this is not a trend, this is life and it should matter. Inclusion and representation and telling everybody's story and everybody should listen to everybody's story. I see a lot of change and I think a lot of theater companies have been on the forefront of that. But I think we should always seek more and push for more. And I'm very proud to be a part of that in any way I can, as an actor, as a storyteller, as a supporter of the arts. I'm happy to be there and I'm happy to push the narrative and I'm happy to help out in any way that I can.