New work film festival will run on Facebook from Sept. 10-20


Cloverdale’s own performing arts center has been making the steady switch to a temporarily all-digital presence, brought on by the gathering restrictions caused by COVID-19. For the past few months, it’s held themed days of the week — on Mondays they published makeup tutorials, on Wednesdays they hold their own dead poet’s society and on Friday’s they do “flashback Friday” social media posts oriented around past events and shows at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center (CPAC).

Now, CPAC is holding its own virtual short play festival, dubbed the New Work Festival of Injustice, which will be broadcast on the center’s Facebook page from Sept. 10 to Sept. 20.

“This all came out of us trying to do something with shelter in place and having all of our shows canceled,” said Yavé Guzmán, artistic managing director of CPAC.

In May, the center met to start coming up with a plan of action for how CPAC could continue to promote local art and theater longer-term, keeping in mind the pandemic.

“Obviously we can’t have shows, we can’t have people meeting and rehearsing and at that time we took the decision to just close for the remainder of 2020 any live shows in the theater,” Guzmán said.

With that decision, Guzmán and three other CPAC staff members were put on leave — but, they were also planning how the show could go on.

Out of continued meetings came the idea to hold a new work festival. The theme of the festival, injustice, came as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and an overarching feeling in the theater community that theater has traditionally silenced people of color, Guzmán said.

“It wasn’t until June when the tragedy happened with the police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement that sprung out of that when we really started saying, ‘Maybe we should revert to what theater can be,’” he said. “It was the right decision for us to center it in what was going on around us and give people a voice in our space to tell their story, so we picked the theme of injustice — both with what’s happening right now and any other injustice that the playwright wanted to tell.”

According to Guzmán, the seven short plays being presented deal with a bevy of issues — race, immigration, LGBTQI issues and others.

“We asked the playwrights to write plays specifically for the shelter in place guidelines, meaning one to four characters and then when we started asking directors to direct the shows, we asked them to maybe seek out actors that were already sheltering in place together or in the same household,” Guzmán said.

One director participating is also a filmmaker he said, and was able to get a filming contract that specifically addresses COVID guidelines and allows for filming. Other directors held more of a Zoom meeting style filming of their plays, while others filmed actors interacting outdoors and at a distance.

Guzmán is directing one of the plays and said that his approach was having actors film themselves and send him the clips so he can splice them together.

“We’re theater artists, so our home is being on stage with a live audience so this is a completely new, different platform for everyone. Everyone who has to deal with Zoom meetings would know. Putting an art form into that is very restricting,” Guzmán said. “We are pre-filming these, so in essence it is actually a mini film festival because they’re all being filmed.”

With one 10-20-minute show being broadcast to Facebook per night, the first four plays will be shown on Sept. 10, 11, 12 and 13, respectively. The last two will be shown on Sept. 18 and 19. Following each showing, CPAC is hosting a live talk with the director, playwright and actors hosted by Jude Gibson.

While it’s free to watch the festival, CPAC is asking for donations. Like many arts organizations and nonprofits, the center has felt the impact of recent shelter in place closures and related economic downturn. In August, someone donated a Mini Cooper to the center so it could auction it off for extra funds to stay afloat.

Of the funds donated to CPAC for The New Work Festival of Injustice, 20% will be donated to the ACLU of Northern California. People are also able to purchase tickets for the virtual festival, which for $15 will get them a link to a compilation of the seven shows and for $25 which gets them a link to the seven shows, as well as bonus material such as show discussions and promotional pieces.

“It’s been tough on us,” Guzmán said. “The starting few months and even now, there’s always a thought that we might not come out of this. If this goes longer into the middle of next year, we might not survive. This festival, which is partly a fundraiser, is a way for us to stay solvent.”

Guzmán said that embracing a more virtual format is still all about the stories.

“These stories are personal, some of these stories people have observed or lived through or witnessed somebody going through this. They’re immediate … When that takes the center stage, any medium you can always work around and use it to better tell stories,” he said. “These stories, they’re important, so even though it’s in foreign territory I think the honesty and the heart and the reality of these stories overcome the medium or the restrictiveness of a new format.”

To view the plays on Facebook, click here.

To view more details and the play line-up, click here.

To donate, click here.

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