Patrons pining for in-person performance are now finding it by the carload

Our author takes a spin around local live entertainment catering to car culture.

We thought the days of drive-in movie theaters, with patrons braving the weather for the sake of a good time, were a thing of the past. But pandemic desperation has brought this back, easing some of the angst to return to “normal” and allowing more socializing and opportunities for entertainment. 

But what about live theater and live music? Virtual performances have been in abundance, but with rampant cabin fever coupled with the obvious differences in visual and audio quality for virtual versus in-person performances, patrons have been pining for a theater experience.

Scene from ‘Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear. Photo courtesy of the Alden Theatre.

Enter the era of parking lot and car-culture theater. 

Alden Theater’s recent drive-through-drama production of “Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear”  in McLean, Virginia, is a perfect example. The family-friendly show took place in the parking lot of McLean Community Center and consisted of a dozen or so stations, along a windy path marked with cones. Each station was a different scene with one to three actors performing with face shields.

The story was developed by Kristin McCarthy Parker and Kyle Schaefer and written by Nick Abeel, Darian Dauchan, Kristin Parker, and Natalie Richand. Andrew Scott Zimmer directed the piece, which must have taken an immense amount of planning and precise execution with so many scenes going on simultaneously, over and over again, as the cars cycled through.

Photo courtesy of the Alden Theatre.

The plot focused on a missing doctor (Daevon Watson), who entered the Phantom Realm long ago and disappeared after encountering the Monster (Nikki Amico). His granddaughter, Doc (Mollie Greenberg), starts the adventure with a recap of the mysterious disappearance and then sends each car through the Phantom Realm, designated with fun strobes (lighting and technical design by Jennifer Garrett) and eerie music (sound design by Justin King).

Along the way there is a werewolf (Graham Cole), a surprisingly zen zombie (Anna Eppard, two ridiculously adorable ghost puppets (Erika Friel and Chloe Davies) complete with mini face shields, a trio of hilarious musical dancing mummies (Rebecca Blacksten, Abigail Joe, and Keya Umesh), a fitness-focused Dracula Jr. (Tristan Pederson), and a delightful witch (Elizabeth Ludlam) brewing a concoction with questionable ingredients.

Scene from ‘Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear. Photo courtesy of the Alden Theatre.

Each character evolves the story, and right away it is clear that things are not what they seem. While the setting is very spooky, there is a calm and very non-scary vibe with each of the classic Halloween-themed creatures. But in case they bring the show back next year, I will not divulge their secrets.

I saw the show with my youngest and we had a blast. Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear” was a perfect, family-friendly experience that made us feel wholly entertained and safe. Kudos to Alden Theater for their originality, responsibility, and conviction to keep theater alive.

And there are several other groups out there fighting the good fight for the Arts! The comedy production group Jokes On Tap has a bi-weekly outdoor comedy show at Primetime Sports Bar & Grill in Fairfax. The show takes place in a tent in the parking lot and features hot local comics. Temperature checks are done before anyone is allowed in, tables are socially distanced, and all staff and comedians wear masks when not distanced.

Matt Bergman performing at Jokes on Tap at Primetime. Photo by Ben Daniels.

Jokes on Tap puts on a consistently hilarious NSFW show. To be honest, I had an overzealous fang-girl moment when local, DC comic, Chelsea Shorte (recently featured on The Moth podcast episode “Proud and Present: Stories of Pride”) appeared in the lineup of the October 4 show.

Jammin Java, a music venue in Vienna, Virginia, is another local business that had to think outside the box in order to keep business, and the arts, alive. They started “A Song and a Slice,” a series featuring different bands, with a portion of sales going to a charity of the artists’ choosing.  

Smooth As Funk perfoming at ‘A Song and a Slice’ at Jammin Java. Photo by Mike Stone.

The show is set up in the parking lot in front of JJ, with the band under a canopy and tables spaced out around the blacktop. The music is free, but Union Pie Pizza, cocktails, coffee drinks, and a variety of other items are available for table service in the designated roped-off area, or for takeout. There is limited space, but anyone is welcome to park their car or bring their own chairs to enjoy the music, at a safe social distance.

Now with the cold weather approaching, and proper precautions in place, shows will be moving indoors with the same social-distancing standards. 

From parking lot concerts to drive-in interactive shows, people are going to great lengths to keep the arts alive. Patrons and performers alike have been aching for the return of live theater. 

If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is how much we rely on art to keep us whole. And out of that need, people have gotten creative to keep art accessible.  Which goes to show how crucial it is to support local venues and performers. 

So go take in a comedy show, hear a band, or see a show while adhering to social-distancing mandates. It can be done and is being done. Celebrate the arts, support local business, and stay safe. 

Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear played October 16 to November 1, 2020, produced by the Alden Theatre performing at McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, Va. For future events, go online or call 703-790-0123.

For future events at Jammin Java, go online.

Jokes on Tap
Smooth As Funk
Vocals: Lana Mahmoud
Bass: Will Berger (of Pleasure Train)
Guitar: Ian Dandrige (of The Infinite Daisychains)
Drums: Ben Caprio (of Bluewreck)
Keys: Nina Avedissian

Objects in Mirror May Be SPOOKIER Than They Appear
Created by Recent Cutbacks
Written by Nick Abeel, Darian Dauchan, Kristin Parker and Natalie Rich
Story developed by Kristin McCarthy Parker and Kyle Schaefer
Consulting Producer: Lanie Zipoy
Directed by Andrew Scott Zimmer

DocMollie Greenberg, Assistant – Lenny Mendez, Juniper – Luke Rahman, Werewolf – Graham Cole, Zombie – Anna Eppard, V – Erika Friel, Gem – Chloe Davies, Mummy – Rebecca Blacksten, Mummy – Abigail Joe, Mummy – Keya Umesh, Dracula Jr. – Tristan Pederson, Witch – Elizabeth Ludlam, DJ – Daevon Watson, Monster – Nikki Amico

Producer: Danielle Van Hook, Associate Producer: Sarah Schallern Treff, Stage Manager: Elizabeth Katz, Lighting Designer and Technical Director: Jennifer Garrett, Sound Designer and Assistant TD: Justin King, Technicians: Deion Roulhac and Josh Young, Carpenter: Will Lusk
Box Office and Prop Mistress: Evelyn Hill, House Manager: Jeff Virchow
Assistant House Manager: Jared Mercier, Graphic Designer: David Craig, DJ Monster Track Producer: Daevon Watson

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