Fat Kids are Harder to Kidnap on Zoom is a virtual show by homegrown theatre company How Drama. It clinched a nomination for Best In Theatre at the Sydney Fringe Festival 2020.
The show is the first of How Drama’s plays that is specially written for the online platform due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it still follows the same format as the typical How Drama show – with 15 small plays performed in 30 minutes.
Since 20 June this year, the team has pulled off eight live shows on Zoom. They are now preparing for a physical show (finally!) that will take place in mid-August.
What does it take to pull off a great virtual show?
Hear from Ms Melissa Sim, 39, the the director and co-writer of Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap.
- Write for the Online Medium
Adapting a physical show for the online platform may not always work. This is why Ms Sim’s team have decided to create new content that is fitting for online delivery from scratch.
“We wrote a whole new set of plays just for the online medium so that it would be believable watching it on screen,” Ms Sim shared.
“For example, we use the format of a cooking show, a TikTok video, or an online influencer doing a hair tutorial.”
In other words, it’s good to take inspiration from the popular content format on existing online video and social media platforms.
- Professional Equipment Isn’t Necessary
One might think that pulling off a high-quality virtual production would require elaborate setups and expensive camera equipment, but Ms Sim shared that relying on laptops, phones and tablets is more than enough.
Actors can log in to a Zoom call from their respective homes to perform together.
What’s more important than professional-grade equipment is to have professionals who can help create the desired look and get the audio levels for the production right.
- Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Teamwork is an essential part of putting a show together from start to finish.
Building chemistry with the team can be challenging when the cast and crew are not able to communicate face-to-face. But in How Drama’s experience, having worked together for more than a decade helped them “understand the comic timing that is needed for the show to work”.
For teams that don’t have the benefit of having worked together for a long time, it’s especially important to make an effort to bond with one another from the get-go.
- Engage Your Audience
Another integral aspect of virtual productions is to allow for audience interaction.
Engaging your audience helps them “feel like they are a part of your show,” said Ms Sim.
“Before our show, we warm the audience up by asking them to shout the number of the play they want to watch. Basically, getting an audience to participate either by speaking or participating in the chat or by doing polls will help,” she said, adding that her team would then go with the majority vote and perform according to the audience’s preferred sequence.
- Practice Makes Perfect
Ms Sim also stressed the importance for actors to treat rehearsals for a virtual show as seriously as they would for a physical show.
“You need to make sure you are so comfortable, [your lines and actions must] become muscle memory. Then you can really enjoy the process. If you are still worrying about lines or the tech on show day, it will be evident to the viewer.”
While actors need to be thoroughly prepared, it’s equally important for tech crew to know the drill.
“To share sound, share screen, toggle between actors using the spotlight function, all of that requires practice.”
Putting on a virtual production isn’t easy, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying it out, said Ms Sim.
“Just give it a go. Simple tools can give you an amazing outcome if you just use a little creativity and have the courage to try something new,” she encouraged.
How Drama’s Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap will be staged at the Ngee Ann Kongsi theatre from 13 to 15 August this year. Due to the Phase 2 heightened alert restrictions, the audience size will be capped at 50 people.
You can get ticketing details at howdrama.com.
Edited By: Adiel Rusyaidi Ruslani and Charlotte Chang
Proofread By: Teo Yin Yan