Benny Sato Ambush approached his directing of May 2020’s virtual production of The Living, a play by dramatist Anthony Clarvoe, with excitement, innovation and solicitude. The premise of the production couldn’t be more relevant to today’s Covid-19 pandemic. It takes a sobering look at London society’s response to its Great Bubonic Plague of 1665 that ravaged over 20 percent of London’s population. The Living chronicles the conditions, challenges, societal fault lines, foibles, and triumphs during that 1665 scourge, eerily similar to our current day pandemic crisis.
Although it may be difficult for actors to convey compelling emotions on Zoom theatre, the ones recruited for Ambush’s reinterpretation effortlessly rise to the occasion. With beautifully crafted language and indelible poignancy, The Living unveils the tests and tolls on all facets of London society, revealing universal human yearnings of a beleaguered community. Conscience is on trial unleashing conduct from the heroic to the ignoble. The play is an appeal to what really matters during such trying times as we are in now as then - in the realm of the living.
Ambush strategically used this project to unite members of the metro Boston theatre community in a unique and riveting way. The Zoom performance was a benefit for Boston’s Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, with patrons paying what they could on the digital platform. Both of these facets made the play available to various populations who otherwise may not have had access.
The aesthetic of the play is bare but surprisingly powerful: a tight camera framing of each actor’s face to their shoulder line swimming in a sea of blackness. This is indicative of the emotional and metaphorical isolation the characters embody. Separation is a prevalent theme in The Living that leads spectators to correlate it to our own socially distanced realities. Ambush’s bold reimagining of this classic body of work is intriguing and shows how art can imitate life without the passing of time affecting the significance of the message. In showing how the past speaks meaningfully to the present, Ambush’s The Living gathered audiences together during one of the most consequential events of our time.
— Candace McDuffie
Benny Sato Ambush is a veteran professional SDC stage director, former Artistic Director of two professional theatres, teacher of acting and directing nationally (MFA, BFA, BA levels), a published commentator, arts leader, and consultant. Formerly: Producing Artistic Director - Oakland (CA) Ensemble Theatre (SPT); Associate Artistic Director - San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (LORT B); PEW Charitable Trust/TCG Director in Residence - Florida Stage (LOA); Associate Artistic Director - Anna Deavere Smith's Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard University; Producing Artistic Director - TheatreVirginia (LORT C); Senior Distinguished Producing Director-In-Residence, Emerson Stage, Emerson College, Boston; Director - Institute for Teledramatic Arts and Technology, California State University - Monterey Bay. He has numerous directing credits at professional regional theatres and universities nationally. Founding Member - National Alliance of Acting Teachers; Adjudicator - American Association of Community Theatre; Board Member - National Theatre Conference; Fellow - College of Fellows of the American Theatre. MFA - University of California, San Diego; BA - Brown University.
This production of The Living by Anthony Clarvoe was produced by Theater of the Blue Marble, Stories from Mother Earth, An Independent Producing Entity, Benny Sato Ambush - Producer and Director, and was a benefit for the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund.
The Arts Fuse, Boston’s Online Arts Magazine
Bill Marx: Editor-in-Chief
ABOUT THE LIVING
The past speaks meaningfully to the present in Anthony Clarvoe’s riveting examination of London society’s response to the Great Bubonic Plague of 1665. A prescient moral and cautionary tale with lessons for today's Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic era, The Living chronicles the conditions, challenges, societal fault lines, foibles, and triumphs during the 1665 scourge, eerily similar to our current day crisis. With beautifully crafted language and compelling poignancy, The Living unveils the tests and tolls on all facets of London society. The story unearths universal human yearnings of a beleaguered community. Conscience is on trial, unleashing conduct from the heroic to the ignoble. The play is an appeal to what really matters during these trying times in the realm of the living.
CAST (alphabetical order)
Diego Arciniegas* Sir John Lawrence, Lord Mayor
Ken Cheeseman* Lord Brounker, a Cavalier
Anne Gottlieb* Mrs. Elizabeth Finch, a Searcher of the Dead
Ed Hoopman* Man 1 (multiple parts)
Doug Lockwood* Rev. Dr. Thomas Vincent, a nonconformist minister
Marya Lowry* Stage Direction Narration
Nael Nacer* Dr. Edward Harman, a physician
Maurice Emmanuel Parent* Man 2 (multiple parts)
Samantha Richert* Mrs. Sarah Chandler, a shopkeeper’s wife
Michael Tow* Man 3 (multiple parts)
Lewis D. Wheeler* Mr. John Graunt, a scientist
Benny Sato Ambush+ Director & Producer
Dewey Dellay Original Music and Sound Design
Becca Freifeld* Stage Manager
Nina Groom Digital Technical Designer
Hanife Schulte Dramaturg
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association
+Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society