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Window Theater: When a Door Closes a Window Opens

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Performance artists Steven Licardi and Courtney Surmanek work in a field they call "creative aging." They wanted to do something to help keep people stay engaged in life and connected in these times, when everywhere, doors were closing.

Since the pandemic means you can’t perform inside most public spaces, Courtney Surmanek and Steven Licardi decided to create a new kind of show to be performed by players outside a building. Their audience, inside, sees the show through a window.

“So, yeah, ‘Theater Through Windows.’  That’s what they now call the show.  We came up with the kind of whimsical name. I don't think we came up with a name first…"

“No, it was a work in progress. Licardi pointing out, “It was your idea, you came to me and you were like, I’m thinking about doing this thing. And I was actually resistant because I don’t know what that looks like.” 

And as they agreed, “We made it up from there.”

Since then, they’ve been delivering this new kind of interactive theater, right to your door, or rather through your window, leading performances every other week at Commonwealth Senior Living in Christiansburg.  

“We start off and we lead the folks into a breathing or grounding exercise,”  so breathing in and out, sometimes with imagery.  We've used the imagery of flying; taking flight and then landing, was just a way to bring us all together to maybe settle our souls a little bit, because there's a lot of tension and energy around. So, just allowing space for breath and then we move into a playful game.

Surmanec says these activities are the kind of thing anyone can do. And if not these, then different ones might also work. She is a theater maker and studying to become. Licardi is a social worker, a writer and a spoken word poet.

“We're not like savants by any means, we just come with a lightness and laughter and some tools that are really easy to find online, like just Google search improv games. Some are call and response singalongs, and you can sing them; we're not coming with a particular knowledge set. I think this work is freely accessible online and totally possible to jumpstart.”

“We also use song and so, the poetry and the song, we try to draw from the region.  Since we’re in Appalachia one poet that we've drawn on is Wendell Berry. 

“Should we do it”? asks Surmanec, referring to the song.

“You want to do it?” replies Licardi.

“Sure. Let's do it. Okay. Three, two, one.”

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.