As I sat down on the couch hearing my husband in the other room doing Zoom class and my daughter in her nursery talking herself to sleep, I pulled up yet another online performance. Here we are almost a year into this pandemic and I have learned how much I love the comfort and privacy of watching theatre from home. An Other Theater Company is currently streaming their fourth online performance since the shutdown last March. I watched their most recent streamed show, Tethered by Chelsea Hickman last night, just in the nick of time. If you want to watch Tethered, you only have a couple more days to catch it on their website as the stream ends on March 6th.
A description on the stream landing page describes Tethered. “Set in 1600s England, Tethered tells the story of an expecting farm wife, Margaret, and her fascination with her new neighbor, Sileas Fletcher. Sileas offers her services as a healer and midwife, but Margaret has already chosen her Gossips: Ms. Mary Wallace, Mrs. Elizabeth Gibson, and Mrs. Alice Adams. The Gossips warn Margaret to be wary of the Fletcher bloodline, as they come from a long line of witches. Blood runs cold when Margaret’s husband doesn’t return home from delivering crops to a neighboring village. And Margaret isn’t entirely certain that is such a bad thing.”
Tethered is the third reading, at AOTC, of a script by playwright Chelsea Hickman (one of which also became a fully mounted production last winter prior to the shutdown). Hickman is also the literary manager for the organization. Tethered has been on my “to-read” list on New Play Exchange, but I just haven’t gotten the chance to read it. I’m so glad that I now have had the chance to watch a reading of it. The reading produced by AOTC isn’t perfect, with moments of muted readers and a couple stumbles over lines, but to me that makes it that much better. In a time in which many people are struggling for various reasons, the sincerity and reality of this performance felt not like a professional performance out of reach from the common viewer, but a group of friends getting together to read a period piece that is just as relevant today as it is in the time period where it takes place.
Hickman’s piece recognizes that the issues of sexual assault, misogyny, domestic violence, bigotry, and others are not new but have been around for as long as history has been recorded. Likewise, the readers approach their parts with such genuinity that as a viewer I recognized not only myself in their performances but that they might also have experiences similar to the characters they presented. The themes of this piece are wide reaching and carefully, but confidently, illustrated for viewers to be able to relate to and maybe not feel so alone. As it is a reading and not a full production, there are content warnings with the recognition that some of the warnings are only spoken of, not portrayed fully as they would be in a full production.
I appreciated watching this reading from An Other Theater Company and I still look forward to the opportunity to read it on the New Play Exchange, to look at it not only as a viewer but also with a dramaturgical eye as a reader. If history continues to repeat itself, I will never not love a production or reading from An Other Theater Company. I am forever tethered to the amazing work that they produce. Don’t miss your chance to view this free reading of Tethered at anothertheater.org and remember to support local arts organizations with donations.