BY OLIVIA CAMERON- You asked, so Spark is delivering. Spark Boca Grande TV has been rehearsing over Zoom once again to bring out their second livestream play.
This group of gifted islanders is eager to perform their read-through of “Last Love,” written by local playwright Vincent Scarsella. The play is a dramedy with an inside look at senior relationships in assisted living.
The return of the livestream comes with a twist, for islander Meryl Schaffer has directed it in its entirety. “Last Love” is to be performed as a read-through similar to their previous play, “His Second Act.”
“The basic idea of this play revolves around an elderly man who has lost everyone he loved,” said Vincent. “When I wondered where I should set him, my mom’s assisted living experience came to mind. The short story turned play was written based on a specific demographic.”
Each character has a unique role in the retirement community setting, from Kris Doubles’ classic doctor persona to Maggie Bush’s role as a resident who lives to share her keen opinions. Erica Ress Martin, Elaine Skypala and Linda Rollyson play the remaining residents who err on the side of the dramatic and catty. Between the retirement community characters stands Jack, played by James Martin, and his last love with companion aide Rosa, played by Sally B. Johnson.
“It is such a fun project,” said Meryl. “We decided to keep our Zoom group together. Sally gets the credit for introducing us to the play, and Erica asked me to direct so we could explore the writing and get in touch with the characters.”
They’ve kept the casting pool for their livestream limited, despite the talent throughout the island. “Meryl has helped mold our characters,” James Martin said. “She gives us a different way to refine them.”
Despite its informality, Vincent enjoys seeing his characters come to life.
“It’s been a fabulous process for me as the writer,” he said. “I am able to chime in and explain what I was envisioning for each scene.”
Erica highlighted the obstacle of acting within a screen. “They say ‘step into their shoes,’ so I practice fully dressed as the character I want to portray.”
Actress Elaine finds that the immobility of the characters works well when there’s no stage to act on.
Enlisting the help of their beloved 21-year-old tech helper, Lucas Ponte, they hope no more technical difficulties are to result. “There was something wrong with my computer during the last livestream, which created a few technical problems,” said actress Linda.
The cast members suggest that a few sips of a cocktail would pair nicely with the viewing of their play. “I recommend a martini with either vodka or gin, and it must include two olives,” said actor James. “A cosmopolitan for the ladies will do.”
“Working with a capable group like this makes my job a breeze, because they really bring it, despite the distance,” said Meryl.
Erica is hopeful that the future of their livestream performances will be inspired by local playwrights, 50 and up, who will be able to submit work through a workshop in the near future. More information is to come.
Tune in to view the livestream on Wednesday, July 8 at 5 p.m. on Spark Boca Grande TV on YouTube. After the premiere, “Last Love” will run 24/7 for those who missed it. In spite of the coronavirus, the show must go on!
Pictured above are the cast of characters for “Last Love,” including (top row) Meryl Schaffer, Erica Martin, Linda Rollyson, (middle row) Sally Johnson, Maggie Bush, reporter Olivia Cameron, (bottom row) playwright Vincent Scarsella, James Martin and Elaine Skypala.