The pandemic hit many industries hard with the closure of businesses, events, classes, workshops, etc. It was a challenging time for everyone, as people were isolated and worried for their loved ones. It was a tragic time for those who dealt with the loss of their beloved. In those tough times and inexplicable times, art came to find many and calm them. Yet, one group of artists has been completely left out: stage performers.
Theaters shut down their productions as an act to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, therefore leading to many actors, stage directors, playwrights, stage technicians, and assistants without jobs and pauses in their careers. For the longest time, the question lingered: Will we ever return to the stage? Will we see the faces of our audiences once again?
Fortunately, the answers to those questions are both yes, even though most audiences are required to be masked to enjoy a play. But it took a lot for theaters to come back to where they are now and to slowly return to their state before the pandemic. In New York City alone, many New Yorkers and actors felt a void without theater.
The 2021/2022 season was the first to return since productions were shut down and plays were canceled back in February 2020. Luckily and thankfully, some of those productions returned with the same cast, and many ran auditions again for roles that were lost in time. It is still a healing time for theater, but it is extremely exciting for the cast, crew, and audience to be back. At this time, it is particularly important to support non-profit theaters that continued to remain during the most difficult era and to donate to the future of storytelling on the stage.
Since theater is officially back and plays and running, it is interesting to experience live performances after a period of no theater. It is also exciting to see new, innovative productions come up with stages that are intensely different. For instance, the immersive theater show “Phantom Folktales” produced by PigPen Theater Company, is a play staged at Virgin Voyages. Virgin Voyages is a cruise line headquartered in Plantation, Florida, and a joint venture between the Virgin Group and Capital. The cruise ship hosts the audience of the play while creating an interesting atmosphere of being on a cruise. The play stars Jenna Pereira, an international actor who has performed both in Canada and the US. Jenna is a singer and actor, and she has known for her notable lead roles in: “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Christmas Cabaret.”
Jenna Pereira has now been invited to perform in the lead role of Rose in “Phantom Folktales.” Jenna was recently interviewed on NY Art Life, and she spoke about the way returning to the stage has fulfilled her artistic endeavors. She also explained how wildly exciting it is to perform on a cruise, a production almost unimaginable especially after the height of the pandemic. But Jenna is focused on an element of theater that she believes highlights her passion for the art: storytelling.
Jenna knew she always wanted to be an actor and singer since she was in school, and her experience with stage performances even lead her to pursue this career altogether. Apart from the art of acting and singing itself, Jenna also has a passion for storytelling, and the impact an actor has on the quality of it in a play. She mentioned in an interview that even when she is performing herself, she can watch the story unfold on stage as if she is part of the audience. It shows how much Jenna appreciates the presence of an audience and how essential they are to the execution of an idea.
In addition to her leadership roles in traditional performance, Jenna has also mastered the art of street theatre, which is a complex methodology for storytelling and performing theatre. Street theatre is a form of theatrical performance and presentation in outdoor public spaces without a specific paying audience. These spaces can be anywhere, including shopping centers, car parks, recreational reserves, college or university campuses, and street corners. They are especially seen in outdoor spaces where there are large numbers of people. The actors who perform street theatre range from buskers to organized theatre companies or groups that want to experiment with performance spaces, or to promote their mainstream work. Jenna generously uses street theatre to convey a message and make theatre more accessible to the crowd watching it. Street play is the rawest form of acting because one does not have a microphone or loudspeakers.
Jenna is no stranger to this raw form as she has frequently performed outdoors as a lead and featured performer. In her native Canada, she has performed Outdoor Summer Theatre Broadway in Brampton as the lead performer; the Echo Beach Festival as the Mayfield Magnetics featured performer, award-winning jazz choir; and many other street and outdoor theatre performances. An experienced performer, Jenna is dedicated to her craft and continues to support all street theatre and outdoor theatre endeavors. With the theatre industry changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic now more than ever it is critical to support artists and diverse forms of theatre and performance.