Just one day before last year’s COVID-19 lockdown, South Coast Repertory Artistic Director David Ivers had a feeling it might be awhile before his actors would take the stage again.
So he called playwright Richard Greenberg.
“I called him on March 12, the day before we were supposed to shut down the theater, and I said, `I think we’re going to be out for a long time. I think you should write a play,”’ Ivers told City News Service.
What Greenberg came up with during the lengthy quarantine was “A Shot Rang Out,” a one-man show starring Ivers that will debut at the Costa Mesa theater on Saturday, marking the venue’s first indoor performance since the shutdown.
Greenberg turned in his first draft in December.
“In the subject line (of the email) he wrote `Merry Christmas,”’ Ivers said. “Even as a first draft I was like, `Wow. This is so amazing.”’
Ivers sent it to one of his mentors and a close friend, “Both of whom said, `Oh my God,”’ he said.
The story revolves around an actor emerging from a forced period of isolation to take the stage again.
“He’s telling a story from his life, his isolation and how it intertwines with shame and what he’s learned about being in isolation and how redemption and forgiveness is possible, so, ultimately, it’s a really beautiful and moving and ultimately uplifting story, but at its heart it’s also a universal feeling about what we’ve all gone through,” Ivers said.
The character “uses two films he watches while in isolation that he speaks to the audience about — they’re really lesser films, but they saved his life in a way,” Ivers said. “They contextualized things he never appreciated before. … The only other character is the audience. … He is telling this story on this night once to this audience about his experience and he is returning to the theater for the first time just like the audience. In a meta way and a real way it is profound.”
Ivers and Greenberg worked on the script “on and off again,” with Ivers sometimes reading it aloud to Greenberg on Zoom, he said.
Ivers had barely taken over as South Coast Repertory’s artistic director when the shutdown occurred.
“It’s been bumpy,” Ivers said. “But it’s been oddly beautiful in its own way at certain times.”
Ivers said he has had more time to reflect and spend time with his family.
“All these things are in this play,” he said. “COVID is to me ghoulish and nightmarish. … But I’ve also never had this many weekends in a row with my kids.”
As a parent of a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old, Ivers said he has “always been a bit cautious,” about coronavirus. He is vaccinated and the theater audience must be vaccinated and wear a mask, he noted.
“All of those things give me a measure of comfort,” Ivers said.
Still, doing an indoor show is concerning, but, he concluded, “I’m one of the captains of this ship. If we’re going to do this I’m going to start us out.”
Focusing on his role in the play has given Ivers the luxury of a “refuge,” he said.
“Credit to (director) Tony Taccone — and, between him and Jerry Patch (resident dramaturge) — I feel like I’m in really good hands and supported and they’re there to absolutely make the best of it,” Ivers said. “I have a huge job, which I love, as artistic director, so there’s a little reprieve from that. But they’re picking up a lot of slack while I memorize 80 pages.”