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Andrea Agosto, Jill Drexler, Timothy L. Cabal and Matthew Salazar-Thompson. (Photos courtesy of Moxie Theatre.)

Due to the coronavirus, traditional live theatre is not playing in San Diego. However, there are opportunities for artists to be creative online. One local company that is producing new content is Moxie Theatre.

The organization created ZoomFest, which will be returning this weekend. The performances consist of one or more short plays, and audiences watch them using Zoom, the video conferencing platform.

Last week’s premiere, featured an excellent story, written and directed by Executive Artistic Director, Jennifer Eve Thorn, Safe Distance.

Set in the present, the tale focuses on a few people working for a pressed juice company, “Getting Fresh?” The narrative follows four employees, played by Andrea Agosto, Jill Drexler, Timothy L. Cabal and Matthew Salazar-Thompson.

While conflict builds throughout the script, a lot of the humor in the comedy is seeing the workers adjusting to using Zoom at their homes. During the Saturday matinee last week, all of the performers were believably funny at playing characters that are having issues with adapting to the technology.

Thorn’s writing is smart and realistic. Though the thespians were in their own individual homes, Thorn’s direction let them be in sync with each other.

Thorn describes her piece as a “launchpad” for ZoomFest. “I’m a writer, but I don’t consider myself a playwright,” she said. “But I’m a strong enough writer to come up with a concept that could be the test model to see if ZoomFest would work.”

A clever aspect of Thorn’s plot is that she dramatizes how life goes on, even when a pandemic is affecting the world.

“We are in a strange situation, quarantined, yet there are still larger challenges in our lives that didn’t pause while this is happening,” she said.

“A lot of the problems depicted in Safe Distance haven’t stopped for people. They are just trying to navigate through them on top of this other challenge.”

Since Thorn was not using Zoom beforehand, her script is partially inspired by her experiences with the platform.

Instead of auditioning actors, Thorn decided to ask thespians she felt comfortable working with, including Drexler and Cabal. “Jen just asked, and I would follow her anywhere,” Drexler said.

“I just got off of doing Red Bike at Moxie,” Cabal said. “I am grateful for Thorn and the rest of the Moxie crew for having me.”

Similar to Thorn, neither of the co-stars used Zoom in the past.

“I am not tech savvy,” Drexler said. “Luckily, Jen talked us through it. It’s a confidence builder.”

“I actually had the Zoom app downloaded, and never used it,” Cabal said. “We had Jen leading us, which is really nice. All we had to do as actors is do our lines, and watch everyone else’s screen.”

Once the virus flattens out, disappears in San Diego and live theatre resumes, Thorn, Drexler and Cabal are open to working on other plays using Zoom and other technology.

Jennifer Eve Thorn.

Thorn, in particular, realizes how different live theatre has become in 2020. “It’s unlike live theatre and unlike live television and movies,” she said. “I think it’s been a while since theatre has had to shift in a way like this.”

Regardless of the pandemic, ZoomFest should continue to grow and provide fresh and unconventional theatrical experiences.

There are a few more chances to watch performances of Safe Distance tonight at 8:00 pm and tomorrow at 2:00 pm.

In addition to Safe Distance, the ZoomFest event, BOOM-LLENNIAL 2 Plays about 2 Generations will be performed tomorrow at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm. BOOM-LLENIAL consists of the plays, Zoom Mediation in Pandemic Times by Stephanie Alison Walker and Zuzu’s Petals by Calle Prendiville.

Photo of Moxie Theatre
Moxie Theatre
Work 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N San Diego CA 92115 USA Work Phone: 858-598-7620 Website: Moxie Theatre website
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David Dixon

David Dixon

A fan of theatre from a young age, David Dixon began writing reviews while in middle school, for Union Tribune’s Rated G column and sdcnn.com. He was the Entertainment Editor for SDSU’s The Daily Aztec. Currently, he contributes to San Diego Community News Network, a regional reviewer for Talkin’ Broadway, an interviewer for San Diego Theatre Reviews and has won several San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. David is a San Diego Theatre Critics Circle member, an American Theatre Critics Association member & Regional Theatre Tony Award voter.

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