FIT Festival Series, Part 2: Vena Cava Productions presents "Strike!”
By Cristee Cook
For the first time in Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres' 22 years of operation, the FIT Festival is being offered on a virtual platform. Streaming on-demand October 8 – 31, this year’s program includes 6 performance companies with new works in dance, comedy, drama, and more. Dallas Art Beat is excited to be offering “get-to-know-you" featurettes with each company in a 6-part series throughout the month of October.
Part 2 of our series highlights Strike! from Vena Cava Productions. We spoke with Writer and Co-Director Zoe Kerr. Strike! follows a Stage Manager as he slowly loses his sanity during previews for a doomed production of The Tell-Tale Heart. This new, one-man show is touted as startling, exciting and terrifying, and stars Co-Director Jeff Colangelo.
Can you give us some background on your project for FIT?
When I was in undergrad, I worked tech crew on a really stressful show. It was a massive production with a lot of moving parts, and I was repeatedly struck by the thought of what would happen if our Stage Manager (this incredibly calm and good-natured guy) just decided to ruin the show during a performance. Like, stop calling the show, destroy the booth, run out screaming kind of ruin. As a community, we put so much trust in our Stage Managers, and with that trust comes a LOT of pressure. The gears in my head started turning and I wondered what kind of stress it would take to break a Stage Manager—this person that is trained and expected to handle anything. From there, Strike! came together as a story.
What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?
My approach to this project was to not treat it like it was theater made for film or film made for theater, and instead let it be what it is: An unholy abomination that combines both into a weird, madcap horror play/movie. In embracing this approach, I discovered that film and theater are not too dissimilar--the difference really is just in how I can direct audience attention. Onstage, you have to play to the back row and make sure everyone knows where they should be looking at all times. In film, if you want something emphasized, you cut to a close-up. In terms of positive changes, I've become much more adept at adapting both mediums to suit each other. My team and I considered many different ways of doing that and we landed on making a short film that utilizes long unbroken takes for a lot of the show. Hopefully it pleases both theatre-lovers and filmgoers!
Why do you want to tell this story now?
I wrote the first draft as a short story early last year and had been sitting on it ever since. When our original FIT contribution was shelved because of scheduling conflicts, I knew this would be a tough project to head with the tight production timeline and mix of live and voice-over performances, but after our read-through of the very first script draft, I knew I had to tell it. It's about forgiveness, regret, and the power struggle that comes from being in a creative field, where your work is often completely at the mercy of others--I think all those topics are always relevant, but especially this year, and especially this month. I'm not necessarily happy that these topics are still relevant, but it was healing to work through my own anxieties about the state of the world on this particular show.
What’s sustaining you right now during this time of uncertainty?
I am a massive workaholic, so my work always sustains me. If I'm not busy with some creative to-do, I'm depressed. But in my off-off-hours when I’ve finally closed all my work tabs and shut down all my editing and writing software, I’ve begun cold-emailing people I admire to ask for virtual coffee dates. It sounds so scary (and it was when I first started) but I’ve been able to connect with some really fascinating people and I’ve never received a no! I recently spoke with a performance artist based in Munich, and I got to ask for filmmaking advice from an indie director I really admire. If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that you only get what you want if you have the courage to ask for it.
Strike! By Zoe Kerr (Vena Cava Productions) is available for streaming (on-demand) October 8-31, 2020 as part of the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres.
Purchase a two-show block for $12, or a festival pass with access to all shows for $30.
Find the complete program listing, tickets, and more at: festivalofindependenttheatres.org.
Get to know Vena Cava Productions on Facebook.