Rehearsals of a different sort are under way at Tao House for the three one-act Eugene O'Neill plays that will be presented next month in a series of rolling weekly premieres.
The plays are three of O'Neill's earliest and will be presented on the Eugene O'Neill Foundation's YouTube channel. In lieu of the cost of a ticket, patrons are asked to make a donation to the Danville-based foundation to support the actors, sound designer and director.
Director Eric Fraisher Hayes said he knew the only realistic way for a production these days was recording plays in the Old Barn theater to be streamed at a later date, with distancing for those involved.
"I edited the scripts and then blocked the plays so that no actor would ever have to come into contact with another actor and could maintain a safe distance," Hayes said. "We found ways to justify the lines in the script without people touching each other. Or in some cases, I cut the line and together with the actors found a way to retain the spirit of what O'Neill wrote."
Hayes noted that he loves the adaptability of theater, which is proving important for this production.
"I put together an ensemble of nine actors to cover all the roles," Hayes said. "The process for each of the three plays was to meet three times. At the first rehearsal, we read through and discussed the script."
Next Hayes blocked out the movements of the play, and for the second rehearsal, the actors brought in costume possibilities.
"We then ran through each play two or three times so the actors could get a better grasp of the script and I could take notes on how I wanted to shoot the performance," Hayes recalled.
They shot during the third meeting, working through the script page by page and capturing the action from a variety of points of focus.
"My goal is to take all the footage shot from various angles and edit them together in the most compelling fashion I can," Hayes said. "I believe the final result will tell a good story."
The plays, which begin Oct. 3, are three of the O'Neill "lost plays," so named because they were nearly lost in the shadow of his later recognized masterpieces, such as "A Moon for the Misbegotten" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night," both written at Tao House in the Danville hills.
The three plays all touch on the limitations placed on women in the early 20th century -- issues of class, economic power, access to medical care, the right to have an abortion, and police bias, which still resonate today.
"O'Neill may have been writing these plays more than 100 years ago, but he chose challenging subjects that our society is still struggling with," Hayes said.
The three plays feature Emily Keyishian, Ryan Hayes, Kyle Goldman, Cynthia Lagodzinski, John Tessmer, Will Long, John Hale, Charles Woodson Parker and Bonnie Dechant.
For more information about the plays and the process, visit www.eugeneoneill.org.