Houston Actors Go Online To Entertain And Occupy Their Time

Wesley Whitson and his Sondheim videos
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Wesley Whitson and his Sondheim videos
“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; man got to sit and wonder 'why, why, why?" Leave it to Kurt Vonnegut to unintentionally describe our different reactions/realities when it comes to dealing with global problems such as coronavirus.

But what about the actors among us? What do they have to do? Besides sit and worry about their complete lack of work and bills that need to be paid, that is.

For many, the answer is, perform. Both as a necessary expression of their creative spirits and to bring brightness to all those watching. But where, and for who?

Houston actors have taken to Facebook for their artistic articulations and the offerings range from the sweetly personal and low-tech to some grander efforts. All made public for us to enjoy.

On March 17, Joel Sandel started his online series, From the Vault, where he spills behind the scenes amusing theater anecdotes. Since then he's uploaded seven videos, all featuring nothing more than a tight shot of him recounting everything from embarrassing falls on stage, to flubbed lines, to why channeling Phil Donahue for a children's show wasn't the best of ideas.

“It was something to do and a way to connect and let people know that my voice is still calm,” says Sandel whose soothing and sweet storytelling feels like a nostalgic oasis in the theater-less desert. “I’m trying to keep things light. Doing my bit for the war effort.”

When it comes to effort, no one is doing more to entertain us than Wesley Whitson and his epically performed and choreographed solo Sondheim videos. There are three so far, a mile a minute, Not Getting Married Today from Company, where Whitson gleefully defies the pacing Gods and delivers a pulse-racing and hilariously urgent performance.

The other even more ambitious video is a spectacular reimaging of, Moment In The Woods, from Into The Woods, as a post hook up exit.

Last up is a deliciously decadent duet featuring Whitson and his roommate and Houston actor, Skyler Sinclair singing and dancing to "Money, Money" from Cabaret.

All three took an incredible amount of work, hours and hours of planning and shooting and reshooting, and it's not an exaggeration to say they’ll be the most fun you could imagine.

“I posted these so I could brighten people’s days”, says Whitson. “But then people started sharing it and I had friends reaching out to me and saying they were really grateful for this, or I don’t have it in me right now to perform but you are motivating me to want to create something. So, it was wonderful to hear a thing like that.”

Whitson says more videos are forthcoming, in part because it's helping him cope with the present situation. "I'm doing it almost out of necessity," says Whitson. "I feel a little bit like a shark. If I stop moving then I'm going to sink. There's so much despair in the air right now and if I focus on it too much then I could get lost in it."

Whitson credits his ability to perform with keeping him focused and in a happier place right now. If what you really need is a good hearty laugh, then Rachael Logue's audition tape blooper videos are a must.

She originally got the idea to share these hilarious outtakes of her less than perfect performance moments a year ago, to an enthusiastic reception. So, when coronavirus forced so many of her friends and colleagues out of work, in need of a pick me up and spending more time online, Logue figured it was time to share more of her gaffes.

"These are totally legit bloopers," says Logue. "Anyone that has to go through a self-tape process can attest that you work at least two hours to get a perfect two-minute video to send." And in those 2 hours of trying to get it just right, a lot of mistakes are made.

Her first short, but oh so powerfully funny, video shows Logue’s many failed attempts to introduce herself at the start of an at-home audition tape.

Then she gifted us with an extended set of giggle-inducing musical bloopers with this glorious outtake reel.

Being invited to laugh both at, and with, Logue in this fashion is not only extremely generous on her part, it also shows that even in frustrating times, poking fun at ourselves can be therapeutic.

Each one of these actor’s efforts merits multi-viewings, but when it’s time for something else to scratch your performance itch then Quarantined Cabaret is your goldmine.

Started by Dallas-area actor, Mikey Abrams, this public Facebook group invites singers, dancers, and actors from all over to, "spread the joy, not the virus" by uploading videos to connect and share their talents with other. And boy are they ever sharing.

With almost 34,000 members at present and with hundreds of videos to browse, you could easily lose an entire day watching these talented performers share what they've created. It's almost overwhelming.

There's the fabulously chic senior citizen female dancer shaking her stuff, dozens of original songs and a personal favorite, central Texas performer Erin Riddle’s impeccable and hysterical corona spoof of Adele’s hit song,"Hello," wind machine, leaves and even toilet paper included.

If you want more of a local exclusive, there's now a Houston only version of Quarantined Cabaret, open to members only.

Yes, of course, we'd all like to be back in the theaters, working on or watching the art form that gives us such pleasure. But dark stages don't mean a lack of creative outlets or the end of our ability to enjoy and celebrate this kind of talent.

Sit back, click on, unwrap those candies as loud as you want, and enjoy.