What happens to your play about agoraphobia and online dating when your audience is stuck at home too?
Jordan in Love is a conversation about loneliness and human contact
While leaving home might seem really scary for a lot of us right now, for some, it's always been hard. Now, a play about a man living with agoraphobia and confined to his apartment has been adapted for Zoom audiences, who are also staying home during the pandemic.
Jordan in Love, adapted from the Belgian film Thomas est amoureux, is the creation of producer and actor Ryan Cunningham.
The play centres on Jordan, a man living with agoraphobia, who has spent years confined to his apartment. Eventually, his psychologist convinces him to try online dating, and when he falls in love with a woman, he grapples with how he will be able to meet her.
Cunningham had first envisioned his adaptation as a one-man play, with Jordan and a computer on stage. But when the pandemic hit, Cunningham reimagined the script for Zoom.
"It gave the script a whole new layer to set it during the pandemic. Originally, the focus was entirely on our central character's condition as an agoraphobe, and what it was like to live and never leave your house," says Cunningham. "Because of the pandemic, it's now a much larger conversation around loneliness, aloneness, human contact and the mental health of everyone dealing with these issues, not just our central character."
Initially, he was hoping people would join on Zoom and watch the play live, but the quality of the recording didn't work for Cunningham, and he wanted more freedom in editing. So they switched to recording the cast using the videoconferencing platform — in effect, making a short film for at-home audiences.
Still, the cast will have to perform in front of a computer, alone in their homes, using additional recording equipment.
"The biggest challenge is not being able to be in contact with anyone else on the project," he says, adding the cast has to set up their own equipment and figure out how to use it.
He says, ultimately, the process has been more like shooting a movie than staging a play. And now, the project has taken on a deeper meaning — specifically around the effects of living and working alone, primarily on a computer.
This story is part of Digital Originals, an initiative of the Canada Council for the Arts. Artists were offered a $5,000 micro-grant to either adapt their existing work or create new work for the digital world during the COVID-19 pandemic. CBC Arts has partnered with Canada Council to feature a selection of these projects. You can see more of these projects here.