As part of Aurora Theatre Hong Kong’s plans to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the independent theatre company produced Covid & Cigarettes, a collection of original, online 10-minute plays employing 30 actors, 13 playwrights and 10 directors from all around the world (including Hong Kong, New York, Zurich, Sydney and more).
Covid & Cigarettes brought together stories of different people experiencing the various facets of Covid-19, from smoking cigarettes to cure the virus, to stressed out parents coping with restless children, and challenged lovers learning to adapt to the new normal.
Among the productions showcased as part of the collection, and still available to watch for free on YouTube, is playwright James McLindon’s topical piece, Choices.
A debtor burdened by crushing student loans is offered a way out… but is the deal too good to be true?
The Faustian-style tale is directed by Gaëlle Gognau, edited by Isabella So and stars Kim Berrios Lin as the Debt Counsellor and Yuyu Kitamura as the prospective client.
Covid & Cigarettes follows two other collections of ten-minute plays, Coffee & Cigarettes and Champagne & Cigarettes.
Aurora Theatre founder Nicole Garbellini always thought of these projects fondly, as they were both fun and very much community oriented. She began to put together a project that could be accessible worldwide, as well as something that could give relief to the artists involved.
Nicole Garbellini commented: “And then it hit me: what if we were to present a third volume of C&C, but with Covid as the main theme, and have it online so that the whole world could have access to it?
“Playwrights, directors and actors from all over the world showed interest in the project, it was overwhelming. It marked the first time Aurora Theatre had gone online and global and I don’t think we could have had a better 10-year celebration. It is not something I would have envisioned last year, but it’s definitely something that has exceeded my expectations.”
Aurora Theatre Hong Kong is an independent theatre company that aims to promote English-language shows among the local Hong Kong arts scene.
The company was founded by theatre performer and producer Nicole Garbellini in 2010. Nicole has been actively involved in theatre since 1995. Producing credits include Closer (Theatron, 2009) and Six Characters In Search of An Author (The Italian Chamber of Commerce, 2010).
The company has of course felt the impact of the Coronavirus financially and artistically but, says Nicole, “thanks to the world we live in we have been able to use the tools available and do something different”.
Choices, as part of Aurora Theatre’s Covid & Cigarettes, will be available online until 8 March 2021.
Yuyu Kitamura is a Japanese actress raised in Hong Kong who now lives in New York City. Studies: NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the Atlantic Acting School and Stonestreet Studios, earning a BFA in Acting. Yuyu has worked on scripted podcasts, theatre and independent shorts such as Electable (Athena Scriptwriting Lab) and Clique Bait (featured at the Asian American International Film Festival). She strives to work with other Asian creatives to bolster Asian representation within the industry. Yuyu also plays Max in She Came In the Door, as part of Covid & Cigarettes, written by Barbara Blatner and directed by Faith Lawson.
Kim Berrios Lin is currently based in NYC. Her most recent TV credits include The Politician (Netflix), New Amsterdam (NBC), Bull (CBS) and FBI: Most Wanted. She is part of an award-winning comedic pilot, Peri-Street, that has been touring the circuit, and stars as Karula in Karula’s Dream Show Live, an interactive, part improv IG Live show birthed during this pandemic.
Playwright James McLindon is a member of the Nylon Fusion Theater Co in New York. When We Get Good Again won the Playhouse on the Square’s New Works @ The Works competition and premiered there in Memphis, winning an Ostrander Theatre Award for Best Original Script. His plays have been published by Dramatic Publishing, Smith & Kraus, and Applause Books and produced all over the world including London, Edinburgh, Ireland, Australia, the Philippines, Luxembourg, India, Dubai and Estonia.
Director Gaëlle Gognau has been calling Hong Kong home for 16 years. She trained in theatre an acting at Cours Florent in Paris and furthered her studies in Hong Kong at HKAPA. She still regularly enrols in intensive physical theatre workshops. Gaëlle has worked in various capacities for the stage and screen. Some of her favourite stage credits in Hong Kong include Dr Faustus; We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!; Bun in the Oven; and The Waiting Room.