Will Flock Theatre return to staging live, in-person shows in New London this summer?
During a 2020 when little if any live theater happened, New London-based Flock Theatre did manage a short, four-day stint presenting a play last summer — Aristophanes’ “The Birds,” outdoors in Westerly’s Wilcox Park.
For a group known for its long-running Shakespeare in the park productions, that was significantly less than usual.
This summer, things are looking up. Flock is not only returning to perform in New London, it is also offering more show dates than in 2020 and is taking on a big production: “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
Flock will stage the classic play on the Red Barn Lawn at Mitchell College in July, following performances in Wilcox Park starting in late June. They will also bring “Cyrano” to the town of Hampton, but no dates are set yet.
“We’re all just so excited to get back out there,” Flock Executive Artistic Director Derron Wood says. “I believe fully that it’s going to be a longer time till we’re back to normal-normal. But this is a big step toward a new normal.”
When Flock staged “The Birds” last year, it created social distancing circles in the grass for theatergoers and kept a significant distance between the audience and actors. The actors wore face shields and various masks.
“If our actors are fully vaccinated at that point (this summer) and assuming most of our audience is as well but still implementing outdoor distancing protocols, my hope is we wouldn’t necessarily need masks for performers. But it’s still a little too early to tell. We’ll be flexible and err on the side of safety,” says Wood, who is involved with the Shoreline Alliance task force called Reopening CT Arts Venues: Science-Based Safety. He added, “Outdoors has just been proven again and again to be one of the safest places in regard to this respiration disease, this COVID, and for us, that’s what we’ve done for almost 30 summers (referring to Flock’s in the park productions).”
Flock’s annual Halloween-season production of “Macbeth,” which the theater group had performed indoors and for area schools, is another story. It’s too soon to determine if that could be an in-person show or perhaps a film project.
Flock did a filmed and Zoom version of “Jane Eyre,” which was originally scheduled to be performed inside the Shaw Mansion in New London. Wood says he’d love to do that in the Shaw Mansion eventually, but that could be a while. “That’s not even on the radar until it’s proven you can sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers,” he says.
Why they chose ‘Cyrano’
The decision to do “Cyrano de Bergerac” grew out of the online play readings Flock has been doing during the pandemic. After making their way through all of the Shakespeare canon, the performers tried some other works.
Wood had wanted to do a reading of “Cyrano,” and, when they did, he recalls, “Everyone loved it. It was like, wow, this would be a great summer show. You’ve got the sword fights, you’ve got the theater, you’ve got everything going on in it.”
Flock found a great translation from Edmond Rostand’s French original. This translation by Brian Hooker was used as the basis for the 1950s film starring Jose Ferrer.
An interesting sidenote: Hooker died at age 66 in 1946 … in New London.
Wood says he hasn’t found out any more about Hooker’s demise yet.
One problem with the play, though, is it’s a huge work — unedited, it would run more than three hours — and Flock’s Victor Chiburis has been busy making cuts. Flock wants to get it down to two hours.
The cast size will also be trimmed. In the original, for example, the opening scene involves about 40 actors. Instead of portraying a full, cacophonous world, the Flock production will zero in on the central love story: Cyrano, who is embarrassed about his large nose, adores Roxane but can’t express his love because of his self-doubt. He agrees to let the handsome Christian pretend that Cyrano’s love letters and speeches are his and to use them to woo Roxane.
Because “Cyrano” is still a big production, Flock is, as of now, planning to do just that one play this summer.
IF YOU GO
What: "Cyrano de Bergerac"
Who: Flock Theatre
Where: June 24-27, July 1-3 in Wilcox Park, Westerly; July 15-18, 22-25 at Mitchell College, Red Barn Lawn, New London; also Hampton, dates to be determined
Tickets: To be announced
Flock scores at international contest, with math videos
While the pandemic has been curtailing live, in-person productions, New London-based Flock Theatre has been very busy doing videoed and Zoom pieces. The group entered an international puppet competition in South Korea — and came in second, out of 40 companies that represented 21 countries.
The challenge in the UNIMA Korea International Puppetry Film Campaign/Competition was to make a two-minute film about hope in the world in the time of COVID. They were limited to using a traditional Korean paper, handmade hanji paper — which Flock’s artists had never used before. So they tried various things as they determined what would work.
“That was just an amazing journey and fun — and to find out that we got second …” says Deeron Wood, Flock’s executive artistic director.
That came with a cash award of close to $2,000.
Math video gets 31,000 views
Flock has also continued its work in education by making videos for some of the schools it usually works with. Flock’s math video on multiples and factors has over 31,000 views on YouTube.
Flock’s master teaching artist/artistic associate Victor Chiburis and assistant artistic director Noah Todd have written math songs, and they have used puppets to perform them.
The one about multiples and factors features bird puppets in front of a green screen, with new lyrics set to Cab Calloway’s “Hi-De-Ho.”
A lot of the videos have views in the hundreds, but one that focuses on adding and subtracting fractions has close to 3,000 views in just two months.
“There’s a niche there. Teachers we have been working with have been highly appreciative. It’s a way of interjecting the arts into the classroom even via Zoom platforms and things like that. It’s really a new world for us,” Wood says. “… It’s a way for us to continue doing what we normally do every day in a school somewhere but remotely and safely.”
— Kristina Dorsey
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