“It’s really a 100-year thing,” he told the magazine’s Evan Ratliff about a global pandemic, and how history would judge humanity’s efforts to prepare for it. His biggest fear, he said, was a virus unknown to human immune defenses starting a human-to-human transmission chain that would encircle the globe.”
In case you haven’t been keeping up on current events, that’s coronavirus.
Marin Theatre Company Playwright in Residence Lauren Gunderson “did not have to go far to find inspiration for her latest play,” reports the New York Times, as she has been married to Wolfe for nearly a decade. Amidst the pandemic, Gunderson recorded their conversations about Wolfe’s work. The transcripts of those conversations are the basis of The Catastrophist, her new solo play, directed by MTC Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, that was filmed on the MTC stage and gets its digital world premiere from Jan. 26 through Feb. 28,co-produced by MTC and Round House Theatre in Maryland.
When Minadakis first asked Gunderson “if she was interested in writing a play about (Wolfe), she was adamant — no,” reports the Marin Independent Journal‘s Vicki Larson. But amidst the pandemic, “what kind of changed my mind was really seeing him in this context, waking up every day next to someone who specializes in pandemics when we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Gunderson told the IJ. “Every play is about people, and this is a person I know very, very well and love very much, so I can translate that kind of intimate knowledge into a play.”
The team filmed the play on the MTC stage in December. William DeMeritt, a Shakespeare specialist whom Gunderson recruited to play Wolfe, flew in from New York and stayed in a mother-in-law unit owned by one of MTC’s patrons. The crew, according to the Times, included “a woman whose job was to make sure the director stayed socially distanced from the camera operators; to provide hand sanitizer, gloves and other protective equipment; and to administer coronavirus tests. The tests were so expensive that the crew was forced to cut the filming from two weeks to one.”
“We were all building the boat as we were sailing it,” Gunderson said.
DeMeritt, who in pre-pandemic days had roles in Shakespeare in Love, The Merry Wives of Windsor and a handful of television shows, told the Times he hopes the production inspires an industry that has been walloped by the virus. Anything, he said, to help theater survive the pandemic.