Lauren Gunderson, one of the most-produced playwrights in America, refers to her two-person show I And You as “an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.”
It’s the story of two students from Generation Z – late teens to early 20s – making deep discoveries while working on a school poetry project.
Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Emilia Sargent chose I And You as the company’s next production, streamed “live” this Sunday (Nov. 22) and available on demand for three days afterward.
“I work with Gen Z pretty much exclusively as a teacher of acting and voice,” Sargent explains, “and I have been moved by that particular age group. Of course I’m really biased and passionate about working with that age group.
“What Lauren has said about I And You was that teenagers have things to teach us. And the wisdom that they find, and together the wisdom that they find, those of us listening up to 104 years old can learn something from.”
The San Francisco-based Gunderson has a relationship with Tampa Rep, going back to the company’s bravura 2016 production of the playwright’s Silent Sky.
She has agreed to participate in Sunday’s talkback panel, along with director Sargent, the cast, the creatives and a few “select Gen Z artists.”
Viewers will be able to join the Zoom talkback via a Broadway on Demand link at the end of the livestreamed performance.
“She and I are on the same page about Generation Z,” Sargent says. “Fostering and amplifying the voices of his future generation, because they’re pretty awesome.
“And I would say the spine statement of I And You is that we need each other fully in order to live fully, and that we need to stand united in this mystery that is human inter-connection.”
Sargent is especially proud that the event includes a heavily discounted ticket for students.
(All details and tickets here).
I And You follows Tampa Rep’s July production of Sheila Cowley’s Flying, which was, in effect, a staged reading, with the actors Zooming in from different spots in the country.
This one is being performed live (albeit without an audience), using a four-camera setup.
Sargent has been paying attention to the other bay area professional theaters, and the things they’re each doing to practice their art in this time of necessary distancing.
“At the end of the day,” Sargent explains, “as much as all of us love our art, we love our artists and creatives and people more. We want to keep everybody safe. But I think that all of these different models are innovative, and are all really viable ways to come back slowly and cautiously.”
Since Tampa Rep doesn’t have a permanent performance home, I And You – which stars Nick Hoop and Olivia Sargent (the director’s daughter) – is being rehearsed, staged and livestreamed from the Sargent home.
Safety, the director insists, has been a paramount concern. There is an on-site protocol officer, and all the participants’ distances are carefully marked off. The actors only recently began maskless rehearsals.
“This is a way that we can stay engaged with our audience and community,” Sargent says, “because I think the community is very much still interested in being entertained and hearing great messages through storytelling, even though they can’t come sit in the room.”
Every day, of course, looks a little different. Although Zoom is great for talkbacks and discussions, Sargent believes, in one sense audiences are “a little Zoomed-out.”
Who knows what form theater will take next? “It’s a living process, and we just have to keep watching.”