Making ‘Code Blue’

June 26, 2020

Artistic Director Blanka Zizka shared this behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the short digital production, Code Blue.

Code Blue is looking at our current moment of crisis that has been exacerbated by two kinds of viruses: COVID-19 and racism.

The digital production was inspired by simplistic language of Donald Trump during his daily briefings on Covid-19. HotHouse Company Member Anthony Martinez-Briggs then created additional text/poem to juxtapose thoughts of an essential worker working in the hospital to Trump’s slogans, parroted by a Trump follower (portrayed by Ross Beschler).

It took us long time to find the form under COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. We eventually figured out we had to devise something minimalist. We came up with a hybrid between theater and video, where the HotHouse method of bringing the focus to the body was essential.

Our means of production were simple: black backdrop, one iPhone, and one light in each of the actors’ apartments. We learned that we’d get better results by keeping the iPhone cameras fixed. Similarly, as in proscenium theater, we attempted to create dynamics by the the body entering the black space in the frame. We were creating paintings in motion.

It was important for us to develop two different performance styles as well. For the first one, poetic and confessional for Anthony’s character, I wanted use close-ups of Antohny’s eyes. The other was highly stylized, using special effects, suggesting the parroting that can multiply like a virus. I was especially interested in close-ups on Ross Beschler’s mouth.

The sound, too, is meant to create a frame for COVID-19 crisis. The composition by Taj Rauch is created from the sound of wheezing lungs and active respirators.