Coronavirus impact: SF theater company creates more than 140 jobs for actors with online festival

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Understanding how our workplaces are changing is part of our efforts to Build a Better Bay Area, but workplaces aren't just office spaces.

It's a whole new world for those on the stage as well.

The theater is all about storytelling.

But in an era of COVID-19, actors have to find new ways to tell the tale.

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"The work was designed as a stage play," Playwright Genevieve Jessee said. "So trying to convey that through the zoom medium has been part adventure, part discovery because you're figuring things out as you go. What works, what doesn't work and what you can convey on a stage versus a screen."

San Francisco based "PlayGround" has supported young playwrights and actors for 25 years.

And now they are hosting the nation's largest livestreamed festival of new works called PlayGround Zoom Fest to celebrate their anniversary.

"Some audience members who are some of the most die-hard theater-goers in the Bay Area, they go to five or six shows a week," PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann said. "They've been tuning into almost every single event that we have and commenting in the chat that we are filling their heart. The same is true for the actors and the directors."

It's different and unlike anything, the hundreds of viewers from around the globe have experienced.

"Unlike a lot of theater that people have seen with Zoom, where it's a reading and people are looking at a script, we're going with the full production," Playwright Garret Groenveld said.

"Different than film, different than TV and different than theater," Kleinmann said. "Most of the time, most of us sit 20 and as much as 80 feet back from the stage, this is a very intimate way to experience theater."

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It's also rewarding.

As companies lay off workers across the country, PlayGround is creating them.

The festival hired more than 140 actors to do what they love, at a social distance.

"It's been great to see how this is still able to do that work, and that's why I'm so proud to work with Playground because they were able to really jump at the opportunity to try and do what they do a different way," Jessee said.

Different, yet somehow the same.

After all, it's still telling a story.

You can see the full lineup of the PlayGround Zoom Fest by visiting their website here.

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