Cancelled may be a word you’ve seen around theatre performances a lot lately, but Diversionary Theatre refuses to let a little thing like theatres being closed stop them. In fact, they’re presenting CANCELLED the new musical on October 4th at 2pm! Writers Kit Yan and Melissa Li, and Diversionary Theatre’s Director of Education and Outreach Skyler Sullivan talk about this new show and working with the Teen-Versionary ensemble in a virtual environment.
CANCELLED is a short, online new musical that is about what happens with a scandal rocks a progressive high school leading to communication and friendships being tested when the leadership of the schools Gay-Straight Alliance Club’sleadership is thrown into chaos.
Skyler Sullivan first explains what Teen-Versionary is and why it works so well for this project.
CANCELLED is being produced through one of our education programs called Teen-Versionary, in which we engage and an ensemble of LGBQT and allied teens to tackle an artistic project. Usually, this program only happens in the summer, but with this amazing opportunity, we decided to give our teams another opportunity and added this online experience.
Melissa Li and Kit Yan originally wrote the show with it premiering by the keen Company for their Keen Teens Program. Ironically, that show was cancelled due to the pandemic which allowed for Diversionary to premiere the work. This timely show and the internet medium makes it something that can resonate with many people of all ages.
Kit: This show is about examining online discourse and the ways in which misunderstandings occur when we aren’t able to dialogue in person. Melissa first came up with the idea because she follows a lot of Twitter drama, and we built on it by using some of our personal experiences of how conversations about queer identity have gone for us in the past. In this time, particularly when we aren’t able to gather in person, sometimes the internet is all we have for human connection, and that form of communication can be messy.
Skyler says that the show not only reunites the theatre with Kit Yan again, but it also allows this ensemble to explaore a new show with such impactful themes.
Skyler: We worked with Kit Yan two years ago when we toured his work through the San Diego Schools with one of our programs: D TOURS. We jumped at the chance to work with him again, and we are also excited to be now collaborating with Melissa Li!
The themes of this new musical are incredibly relevant for these challenging times we are currently facing. It is all about social media and cancel culture, and what happens when we stop listening to each other; things which seem to be in the news almost daily. We are happy to share this incredible musical with our community, and give a spotlight to some incredible local LGBTQ+A youth talent as well.
Working with the Diversionary Teen Ensemble on a new musical in a virtual space proved to be fun and and hopeful for the future of theatre.
Kit: It’s a dream come true. It’s our first time writing a one-act musical set in a high school, so it was very exciting to see a group of dynamic and talented students bring it to life.
Melissa: I agree. We went to the first rehearsal the other day and the young folx are so professional, smart, and insightful. It gives me hope for the future!
Skyler: Creating an artistic project on Zoom has its challenges, however, we are finding new ways to collaborate using this new digital platform. Teens seem extremely comfortable with working online, and it allows us the freedom to do certain things we could never do in a live space. Our director Jared Mezzocchi, has created an incredibly safe space for them to work, and it only allows them to bring their a game.
While virtual theatre isn’t exactly the same as being onstage in front of a life audience, creating in this new virtual world proved exciting.
Kit: Live energy is live energy. Being on stage in person is impossible to replicate, which is the hard part. Putting on a live musical online is a huge challenge, but it’s one that’s exciting to figure out.
Melissa: After you realize it is its own art form (and not try to pretend it is live theater), then you can appreciate all the things that make it amazing. What I love about virtual theatre is that it is accessible to audiences. People from all over the country, and the world, can tune in if they want to and connect to this live experience. In addition, it brings together collaborators from different spaces to work together and make magic in the virtual space. I think that’s really precious.
Skyler: The biggest challenge of acting online is that the connection with the audience is nonexistent. So much of live theatre is through the connection between you and the other actors, as well as the audience. I don’t think any of us anticipated being able to do this type of work from the comfort of our homes, so that’s exciting that we can engage and collaborate with people all over the world currently. This new phase of creation is forcing us to be artists in new ways and to get creative and solve new problems. This is what we do, so being an artist right now is exciting.
No matter what changes the pandemic may bring for theatre in real life or virtually, Skyler says the theatres commitments will never waver.
Diversionary Theatre will continue to provide a safe place for all humans to grow and experience fresh theatre in whatever way we can. Connection is so important right now, and we are committed to giving a voice to the stories that are usually silenced.
CANCELLED will be presented at 2pm Pacific Time on Sunday, October 4th on zoom. Tickets are information go to www.diversionary.org/cancelled
CANCELLED by Kit Yan and Mellisa Li
Directed and Media Designed by Jared Mezzocchi
Musical Director: Ian Brandon
Cast: Garrett Currier, Deja George, Katrina Heil, Jayda Nya Jackson, Rosemarie Kramich, LilyJane McLure, Casey Morris, August Ballou, Jasmine Salata, Willow Segall, Rachel Weir
Run time: 30 minutes
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