Although the pandemic has been restricting to many, it has not stopped the UW drama department from curating a professional show. Last weekend, I had the privilege of viewing Accidental Death of an Anarchist performed by the UW School of Drama. Through an online livestream, the performance reached a broad audience while respecting safety precautions during the pandemic. The show was two hours long with a ten-minute intermission—perfect for a lazy Sunday evening! The livestream started promptly and the actors took their spots on screen.
Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a story written by playwright Dario Fo based on real-life events in Italy in 1969. In the first scene, we jump into an interrogation of the protagonist called the Maniac. Throughout the show, we follow the Maniac as he conjures up new plans to figure out who killed the anarchist. Although the Maniac is portrayed as a male character in the main storyline, the UW drama team decided to have a female lead play this character. The actress playing the Maniac was full of energy and stayed immersed in her role. As a viewer, the character’s expressions kept me engaged and brought a lot of excitement to the performance. In my opinion, the character’s demeanor could have been enhanced if the background of the actors’ screens were unique to the setting in the story. That being said, through costume changes, the group was still able to portray time changes during the show. Unlike many other shows, Accidental Death of an Anarchist ends with a question posed to the audience where the viewers decide what happens next. Although this is not a conventional conclusion to a performance, it left the audience to form their own opinion about the plot which felt very engaging and left me thinking about the performance even after it had ended.
Although the performance was entirely online, the UW drama program did an exceptional job of producing stage scenes through video tiles. Due to social distancing measures, each actor was performing through their own, individual screen and only the characters involved in the scene were shown at a time. What I appreciated most was the performers’ ability to create eye contact with the other characters through their individual screens. This connection helped the viewer better understand the dialogue and plot development throughout the show. Because each of the characters were in different locations, there weren’t many lighting or sound effects, but I think the intentional movement of the video tiles on the screen compensated for that. Some screens were bigger than others, and some were stacked upon each other to represent different character groupings which was a helpful visual for the viewer. Maintaining eye contact and movements is a difficult task even for an in-person show, so I was very impressed by the acting on live video—the characters were so well-rehearsed, it was hard to imagine it was a live performance!
From the comfort of my own home, I had the opportunity to watch a professional performance filled with wit, humor, and suspense. Even through a screen, I was captivated by the unique features of the event and the plot kept me on my toes. Watching this show online was a safe alternative to an in-person performance and I was impressed by the energy in the actors and visual elements, such as the movement of characters on screen, that the UW School of Drama was able to incorporate during the performance. Accidental Death of an Anarchist is an old classic, but I enjoyed the UW drama team’s rendition of the story and I encourage others to check out their upcoming shows!
Accidental Death of an Anarchist presented by the UW School of Drama streamed live April 8 to 11 2021. For more information see here.