.Focus on Theater

Hindsight 2020 acts out the despair and the hope

Except for the very young, no one who lived through 2020 is likely to forget it. 

Hindsight 2020, an original Zoom theater piece, will examine “a year that defies all categorizations” during seven April performances. And, according to Director Rebecca Haley Clark and Carol Lashof of Those Women Productions, the show will also offer opportunities for online audience member participation.

Lashof said the original concept came from lighting designer Monica Bowker, who wanted to do a project raising money for the Black Lives Matter movement. Lashof introduced her to Clark, whose work includes directing a production of The Roaring Girl at London’s Shakespeare’s Globe, and the idea began to evolve.

“As I started to bring more people into the piece—diverse, international voices—they reflected on their own experiences of 2020,” Clark said. Those experiences included the more than 60 countries’ protests in support of BLM, the pandemic, economic crises, wildfires and a hugely consequential election.

Yet, she added, they also included births, Zoom weddings and graduations, and “glorious concerts held from tiny balconies.”

As of mid-March, collaborating artists Cody Holliday Haefner, Gilda Mercado, Helen Swanson, Katherine Tanner Silverman, Sanjay Lago, Simone Seales, Stephanie Mareen, Rylan Gleave and Vic Rodriguez, with dramaturg Tanvi Shah and assistant director/performer Cree Noble, were still working with Clark to finalize the stories that will be told. They’re exploring both feelings of loss, and “things they’ve gained … holding two feelings at the same time,” Clark said.

She cited, as an inspiration, James Baldwin, who famously said, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”

Sometimes unpredictable lapses of technology impacted performing arts presented online. To deal with this, Hindsight 2020 will include many pre-recorded pieces, Clark said. In fact, as the year advanced, theater artists created a hybrid format, neither live theater nor a movie, she added.

The Hindsight 2020 collaborators are using their own experiences, both good and bad, as well as watching Zoom to try to “provide an experience that’s exhilarating to watch.”

“Virtual theater opens up access to many more people,” Lashof said, noting that Those Women’s usual performing space, La Val’s Subterranean Theatre in Berkeley, is limited in both number and type of audience members it can accommodate. “With Hindsight 2020, people will be able to see it regardless of their ability to get [to Berkeley].”

The production will also donate 25% of proceeds to nonprofit organizations that support vulnerable populations and those most affected by Covid-19, including Equal Justice Initiative (U.S.; social justice), Acting for Others (UK; performing artists relief), The Solutions Project (U.S.; climate change/sustainability), Sylvia Rivera Law Project (U.S.; LGBTQIA) and Stand with Farmers (India; food insecurity/suicide prevention). A GoFundMe page has also been established at gf.me/u/zkib78 to heighten visibility of the project and raise funds with the goal of providing minimum wage compensation for the devising artists involved.

Ultimately, Clark and Lashof said, everyone looks forward to getting back into real theaters with live performances. Those Women Productions hopes spring 2022 will allow the staging of The House of Desires, by 17th-century playwright Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz.

In the meantime, Hindsight 2020 audiences can take away the message “not to give up hope,” Clark said. “And to be open to the possibility that a new world is on the horizon. We are just starting the journey.”

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