The Greenfield Community College Department of Theater presents Campfire Theater, an evening of humorous stories of daily life in Covid-time told live around the campfire. The performances will livestream on YouTube on Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3, at 7:30pm.
Campfire Theater was inspired by director Tom Geha’s memories of performing skits and songs around the fire while camping with his theater friends in graduate school. A GCC professor and chair of the theater department, Geha was looking for a way to brighten up the bleakness of the pandemic, especially after he had to cancel GCC Theater’s performances of The Elephant Man just before it was to premiere in March of 2020.
Geha was struck by the funny stories he heard from friends about life during lockdown. “I was noticing things that were happening in my own life—kind of the silver lining of this whole thing—just the odd thing that would make me laugh,” he recalls. “I got the idea that everybody probably has some humorous story.” Looking at the firepit at his own home gave him the idea of the venue. “I thought, one place where most people have the best memories is around a fire.” Geha put out a call to writers and actors in the theater community and the stories started pouring in.
Campfire Theater’s storytellers are from inside and outside Greenfield Community College. They include faculty members, Cindy Snow and Steve Poulin; students Elise Ansel, Peter Pavone, Leo Sansone, and Ethan Tuttman; GCC alum, Andrew LaPenta; community members Kimberly Salditt-Poulin, Sandra Wang, and Chris Devine (who also provided a guitar performance of Bach for the closing credits); and Virginia resident Roddy Barnes.
The story subjects include quarantining in a house overrun by mice, communication issues with a hardware store’s staff while working on multiple Covid DIY projects, a couple’s conflict over a surprise Valentine’s Day celebration, and finding community in an online group of people who like to dress up as animals. Each performer will tell their story live from their own campfire, since it’s still too soon to bring them all together in one place.
Geha is looking forward to once again feeling the thrill of the live experience, seeing the cast light up for a performance, and making a connection with an audience. “Just like anything with theater, it’s a way to develop empathy, and realize you’re not alone,” he observes, and adds, “I would love to inspire audience members to build their own fires so that we’re all gathered around a fire listening to these stories at the same time.”
Geha hopes that Campfire Theater will become a tradition at GCC, even after the pandemic, perhaps similar to coffeehouse storytelling evenings, where you’d sign up the night of and tell your story. He’s also looking forward to finally premiering The Elephant Man, hopefully this fall or in the spring of 2022 (with nearly all of the original cast ready to return to the production) and partnering with Double Edge Theatre for a performance at GCC next year.
Admission is free, but audience members are encouraged to donate to their local food bank or to the GCC Food Pantry in lieu of payment. They can give online on the GCC Foundation website at www.gcc.mass.edu/foundation/give-to-gcc/ and indicate that the donation is for the GCC Food Pantry.