Just as it has with you, quarantine upended the way many writers work. Deprived of the social rituals and interactions that feed their writing, many have — because writers gotta write, right? — begun closely inspecting life in their own neck of the pandemic. Going microcosmic, they lavish attention on the small disruptions and humors within their sealed borders, hoping to find larger perspectives on this new reality. Thus the rise of the #quarantinediary — many sites and magazines, including this one, have some version. If the form has gotten so pervasive, and often self-indulgent, that it’s already generated a backlash, it nonetheless feels necessary in some way, a collective attempt to think through this altered state as it unfurls.
On Sunday, Las Vegas Little Theatre debuts its own variant, The Quarantine Monologues (with subsequent performances July 13, 19, and 20). The $15 online-only production comprises 15 one-character scripts selected from the 90-odd submitted by writers around the country. (Three of those chosen are by locals.) Performed by LVLT actors including Gillen Brey, Nicole Unger, and T.J. Larsen, the pieces riff on such quarantine-related themes as social distancing, and working or learning at home. “We thought, ‘Let’s see what’s going on out there with folks in this very difficult time,” says Walter Niejadlik, LVLT’s board president, whose idea this project was.
“From the days of toilet-paper hoarding and the quest to find it, to dealing with a loved one who’s in isolation, (the monologues) run the gamut,” he says. The tones? “Some are touching, and very moving, and others are over-the-top funny.” Some, he says, feel like they might be direct transcriptions of the writer’s experiences, while others have a more deliberate fictional treatment.
Of course, quarantine has capsized theater companies as much as writers. Shut down since March, and with the company’s Phase 3 reopening seeming farther away with every COVID-19 update — LVLT recently nudged back the start date of Brighton Beach Memoirs to a surely quixotic August 7 — this is the sort of infill project that might help keep its audience and talent engaged. But (note the $15 ticket price) Quarantine Monologues is a practical necessity for an organization that, like other performing arts groups, exists primarily on ticket sales, which are dormant, and donations, waning now thanks to the stricken economy.
“We have to pay our rent,” Niejadlik says, packing an entire monologue into six words.
The Quarantine Monologues, 6p July 12, 7p July 13, 6p July 19, 7p July 20, $15, lvlt.org