'The Poetry Was Just Perfect': City Theatre's Filmed Version of 'Spoon River Anthology'
This month, City Theatre is making its first foray into the online world with The Spoon River Project: Part 1. The film project, which is available to stream now, features 30 local actors performing 30 poems from Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 collection Spoon River Anthology. Consisting of solo performances filmed separately over several weeks, it feels like a project tailor made for pandemic-era theater-making, but artistic director Andy Berkovsky says City Theatre has been considering some version of a Spoon River production for years.
“Every year, it was on the table, always,” Berkovsky says. “This year, with things happening, all roads… kind of led to Spoon River.”
Berkovsky says the century-old poetry was a surprisingly natural fit for a 2021 streaming project. “The poetry is just so fascinating,” he says. “And, you know, one of the reasons it led to this was because the poetry is written as blank verse and as monologues. So the poetry was just perfect.
“Knowing what the poetry is about – you know, it’s epitaphs of these people’s lives,” Berkovsky continues. “And my intent from the very beginning was finding the relevancy of it and the themes that we could find. Not about death but about life, and about what these people have been through. You know, the poetry’s over 100 years old but it’s so timely. So very, very timely. The central idea and central theme that we came up with for the show was... that sense of community.”
This is the first of three planned iterations of The Spoon River Project; Berkovsky says City Theatre intends to produce three installments of 30 poems each this year. “I think there’s 244 poems that Edgar Lee Masters wrote in this collection,” he says. “I found like the top 90 that we liked.”
After a lifetime working in live theater, Berkovsky at first wasn’t confident that his experience would translate to digital film making, but says the project came together nicely. “I was very proud of it,” he says. “You know, it took some doing to get out there to [Mueller] park at different times… filming different parts of the park… the weather played a part of it one time. So it was challenging, but I think it worked really well.”
'The Spoon River Project: Part 1' is streaming now at citytheatreaustin.org.