Riverside brings back ‘Walking the Wire’ monologue series in a virtual format

The series, titled Walking the Wire, will feature an original monologue every weekday throughout October.


Nandita Shenoy performs her monologue.(Contributed)

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

Every weekday throughout October, Riverside Theater will feature a new monologue for its online Walking the Wire series. The series kicked off on Oct. 5 as a virtual monologue series. Each weekday during the series’ run a new monologue will be released on Riverside’s website.

The call for submissions drew in playwrights of all kinds, which created an array of genres and topics for the series, said Adam Knight, Riverside’s Theatre Director. The theme for playwrights to follow was “in media res.”

Although Walking the Wire isn’t a strictly annual event, the series has a history at Riverside. Several members who are participating this year have been involved in previous years’ productions.

Some participants were solely writers or performers, but others, like Christopher Okiishi, performed their own work.

While this wasn’t Okiishi’s first time participating in Walking the Wire, his monologue for the virtual series, Back to Nature, was influenced by phenomena that took place during COVID-19.

“The inspiration was all the posts on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter about how during the pandemic, the animals have been more friendly and it seems like there’s a whole lot more of them,” Okiishi said.

Back to Nature reimagines the arrival of more animals during self-isolation as something sinister. Okiishi said being able to address fears is one of the reasons theater is still needed during the pandemic.

“I think theater speaks to people’s anxieties, and hopes and dreams, and the need for a catharsis in life,” Okiishi said. “I think all of those things still need addressed.”

RELATED: Worth buying into: Buyer and Cellar is just what theater-lovers need in live theater’s absence

His monologue isn’t the only one to address elements of 2020. The Memorial, by playwright  John Kenyon, is framed as a Zoom meeting in which a student who was accidentally involved with the head of his department’s death speaks to the faculty.

UI theater student Elijah Jones, the performer of this piece, said he’s a good fit for The Memorial because he knows the awkwardness of being a college student using Zoom all too well.

As a student, Jones also said he knows how difficult it can be to find time for entertainment on a busy schedule. He said the ability to stream the monologues at any time is a strength of the virtual format.

“I think that especially in the time we’re living in right now, this is the perfect medium to experience  Walking the Wire,” Jones said. “You can experience art in its most creative way whenever it’s most convenient. I think accessibility has always been the biggest setback of theater.”

Playwright Ellora Bultema said she’s also a fan of the virtual format.

“I knew I wanted to challenge myself by writing specifically for a virtual format,” she said.

Bultema submitted her monologue to be taken up by an actor. The play, she said, is a comedic piece about the unspoken social rules of prayer during a family dinner over Zoom.

She said another advantage of the Zoom format is being able to see exactly what the audience will see during the rehearsal process, and allows for creative freedom with camera work.

“It’s really interesting to see how people have dealt with the constraints [of virtual theater] and grown from that,” Bultema said.