Out & About: Comedy troupe finds humor in the pandemic

  • Lulu Fairclough-Stewart, Cameron Silliman and Seamus Good formed Covid Commedia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy of Covid Commedia) Courtesy of Covid Commedia

  • Cameron Silliman and Seamus Good perform as part of Covid Commedia, a performing arts group they started with Lulu Fairclough-Stewart to create performance opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Covid Commedia photograph) Courtesy photograph—Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/12/2020 9:41:18 PM
Modified: 9/12/2020 9:41:16 PM

Cameron Silliman, Lulu Fairclough-Stewart and Seamus Good had their performing arts careers put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So they did what comic actors do best: They improvised. The three 20-something friends formed a troupe called Covid Commedia, began writing material and have been performing socially distanced shows throughout the Upper Valley.

“We started to have conversations about how we could continue to work on our artistic pursuits when the pandemic was going on,” said Good, who was headed back to teach at The Accademia dell’Arte, in Arezzo, Italy, just as the country’s lockdown began. “This style of theater is exactly what we’ve done in Italy when it first started: It’s smaller performances in marketplaces that are very funny, very entertaining and have these over-the-top characters that let us explore events.”

Good and Fairclough-Stewart — who was auditioning in New York City prior to the pandemic — are both Hanover High School graduates. Silliman — who was about to start the final performances of a New York acting debut in Twelfth Night, before theaters across the city shut down — and Good attended the same college.

“In some ways we have the least amount of responsibility right now, so that freedom has allowed us to work on something outside the box like this theater company,” Good said.

So far, they’ve performed at an outdoor show hosted by Pentangle Arts in Woodstock and for the Special Needs Support Center in Lebanon.

“We started working from June into July on rehearsing material,” Good said, adding that the troupe’s style allows them to “really make light of some of the crazy things that happen in the world.”

Performances include masks, swords and exaggerated movements. Because distance must be maintained, the performers rely on their bodies to communicate more with the audience.

“Personally for me, it helps with my sanity,” Good said of Covid Commedia. “I think in the first couple on the months of the pandemic, we were asking a lot of existential questions ... like is theater even going to survive this?”

But performers have persevered. There is a reason, after all, that the phrase “being a real trouper,” exists — referring to both an acting troupe member and someone who works persistently and without complaint.

“Every show that we’ve done, every person we’ve talked to has expressed how touched and moved they are to have the opportunity to see something with a group of people,” Good said. “Doing this we remind ourselves why live performance is such an insanely cool way to bring people together and tell stories. You need other people there to be able to watch it. While it’s much more difficult now, it’s still possible.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Covid Commedia, visit covidcommedia.com.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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