Theatre company starts amid pandemic, produces podcast

Steve Smith, Hartford Courant

The middle of a pandemic would seem an unfortunate time to start a theatre company, but the people behind Time’s Fool, a Wethersfield-based troupe, have forged ahead, producing online content and planning for the future.

The company was founded by Christie Maturo and Wesley Broulik, who said “if not now, when?”

“If we can figure out how to get things going now, I think we’ll be fine,” Broulik said. “If we can navigate our way though this, we’ll probably be a healthier organization than a lot of places, just by proxy of having to adapt, keep moving, and having to figure out new ways of getting things done.”

After a series of performing sonnets for 31 days, via its social media platforms, the group was planning its first live performance, which was to be a socially-distanced performance of A Christmas Carol, outside at the Heirloom Market, performed by one actor (Broulik) and one cellist. But, recent restrictions due to rising cases of the virus forced them to re-tool once again, instead producing a podcast version of the show.

“The actors’ union felt it was too unsafe to do it in public,” Broulik said, adding that besides wanting to produce something, a big part of the impetus was top bring the holiday spirit to Wethersfield, which would normally be holding its “Holidays on Main” series of events in Old Wethersfield.

“We knew that Holiday on Main here in Wethersfield was going to get the axe, which is a huge blow to downtown,” Broulik said. “What we were missing most was all of the choirs. We felt that we could do it in a way where it’s not a large operation. We could do simple storytelling. Now, we’re pivoting.”

The group had to decide and learn how to record the show and get it online, which included some crash courses in technology and editing. The crew and musicians had to adapt, as well, but the directors said that was a good process.

“They’ve been really great at switching gears with us, and turning on a dime,” Maturo said.

“The cellist that we’re working with, Zach Spears, said ‘This actually allows me to do more than I could have done live,’” Broulik said. “He’s looking at it as a real opportunity to do some cool things that we can layer into what we think will be really lovely.”

The resulting podcast, Maturo said, is very true to the original Dickens story, with a Time’s Fool spin.

“Wesley an I pared down the script. He voices all of the characters. It’s really, really fun,” she said “I think they come through with the way he tells the story.”

Looking ahead to 2021, the group is hoping it can perform before a live audience by late summer, possibly an outdoor Shakespeare production.

“We want to be able to do a Halloween/fall event, and we want to be able to do a summer Shakespeare festival,” Maturo said, adding that a holiday event of some kind is also on their wish list.

Broulik said that being able to increase the amount of arts in the area and to employ equity actors from Connecticut and the surrounding area are important to the company’s future.

“More art means a bigger art community,” he said. “I think you can never have enough theatre in an area. The idea is to employ other artists. Our commitment to casting is Connecticut, New England, and then New York, then outside of that.”

The plan is also to present as many productions as possible, free of charge.

“It’s about us saying, ‘let’s do professional theatre, and let’s see if we can be the lunatics to figure out how to do it where cost is not a barrier for access.’ When we say art is a human right, we believe that through how we are producing,” he Broulik said.

Between now and the time when they’ll be able to do full-fledged shows, Time’s Fool’s plan is to do something to engage the public, possibly begin part of its plan to hold drama workshops, also free of charge, including directing and dramaturgy, physical theatre and ensemble, improvisation and creativity, voice and speech, among others.

“Part of the idea is that through these free and open workshops, we can create engagement with the arts,” Broulik said. “I think that as the pandemic shifts, evolves, lifts, fades, I think we’re all going to be a little more hungry for more human connection.”

“We hope that there’s something that we can do, as we get a taste of crawling our way out of this,” Maturo said.

The podcast of A Christmas Carol, as well as more information about Time’s Fool, can be found on the company’s website, www.timesfool.org.