Who: Onur Karaoglu, Kathryn Hamilton, Meera Kumbhani, Fatih Gençkal, Paul Lazar
What: Interactive short plays
Where: Media Art Xploration YouTube channel
When: Daily through November 23, free with RSVP
Why: MAX (Media Art Xploration) and PlayCo have teamed up to present a unique twist on interactive theater during the pandemic lockdown with Read Subtitles Aloud. Written by Onur Karaoglu and Kathryn Hamilton (aka Sister Sylvester), it consists of thirteen episodes in which you hear only half the dialogue, spoken by an onscreen actor; the other half is your responsibility, as you are the protagonist in the story, reading aloud the lines that appear on your monitor, creating a dialogue between you and characters portrayed by Karaoglu, Hamilton, Meera Kumbhani, Fatih Gençkal, and Paul Lazar that also encompasses a certain physicality, acknowledging how we sit in front of the computer and relate to others virtually.
The first three chapters, “Digital Kissing,” “A Warm Up,” and “A Secret Video,” are available now, with each new chapter dropping daily through November 23, exploring such issues as love and sex, loyalty and betrayal, what’s real and what’s not, and connection and isolation, so key as we keep sheltering in place. The play features art direction by Christine Jones, costume and set curation by Zoë Hurwitz, lighting by Bill Berner, and dramaturgy by Emily Reilly. During the conversations, which are based on Altyazıları Yüksek Sesle Oku’s YouTube series, in which Karaoglu appeared, the actors pace their responses, giving you time to say your lines, and they then react as if they heard what you said. In the first episode, you ask, “Should I give you a kiss?” Karaoglu, who is very close to the screen, smiles, puts his hand over his mouth, and coquettishly says, “No, you don’t have to kiss me right now. But if you want, you can. If you feel something, kiss. Don’t kiss if you don’t feel anything. So the rule about kissing is don’t kiss if you don’t feel anything.” You: “I’m not going to kiss you.” Him: “So, um.” You: “It makes no sense.” Him: “True. It is generally something we fake.” You: “Speak for yourself.” Him: “Okay, I’ll go back to the normal position now, a position that does not invite kissing, a distant position.” You: “When you were close there was this feeling.” Hey, at least you’re not talking to yourself, or bored out of your skull having another Zoom meeting with friends, family, or work colleagues while also shoring up your acting chops.