Theater in the Digital Sphere

Teatro Paraguas partners with local company Xerb to stream online content

Streaming fatigue has become very real, friends. Yes—folks who work in the arts have taken a major hit during the pandemic along with pretty much any other non-Amazon business you can think of, but there are only so many times we can tune in to a musician playing covers in their living room before we start coming up with excuses to skip one. My personal favorite?

"Oh, uh, I have to go. I cut my foot before…and my shoe is filling up with blood."

It snowballs from there, but not to be outgunned by the most diabolical health concern of our lifetime, however, local folks are working out ways to maximize our time spent streaming while upping their own content games and working within the new world order. In this case, Midtown theater Teatro Paraguas has entered into a partnership with local streaming service Xerb.

SFR first told you about the service ( and its hopes to become a viable non-corporate alternative to services like Netflix and Hulu in November of last year (Netflix on Blast, Nov. 26, 2019), and Xerb has since grown to include offerings from film festivals, food-based programming, kid's stuff, classic cinema and lots more. Unlike the mainstream services, however, Xerb's offerings come a la carte—as in, you choose which channels to which you'd like to subscribe, and you can mix and match how you see fit. Each carries its own monthly cost (most run aound $3-$6). Until now, however, theater has been a missing component according to Xerb's Director of Marketing Alex Streeper (she's married to founder Eric Streeper, btw).

"I'm also on the board at Teatro Paraguas, and I've been in a couple plays," Streeper tells SFR, "but I'm no big actress—I'm just a big supporter, so we wanted to start reaching out to more local organizations, we wanted to expand, we wanted to help theater, and we thought it would be really cool to have our first theater be local."

According to Streeper's fellow Paraguas board member Paola Vengoechea Martini, the partnership was a no-brainer. The theater creates content with almost shocking regularity, pandemic or no (think plays, poetry, holiday celebrations, talkback sessions, outside renters like the Julesworks Follies variety show and collaborations with other local organizations), and has joined the pandemic-spurred streaming revolution with Zoom-based shows like Love in the DMZ—an emotional two-person show centering on love letters between a soldier in Vietnam and his wife back home—why not offer that content to subscribers who miss the theater but are stuck in lockdown?

"With the productions we're putting on [through Zoom] right now, we've been recording them so we can put them up on Xerb," Vengoechea Martini says. "We also have archival footage and a few other pieces from the past. We want to have content that's accessible to all, and the reach has certainly expanded beyond the greater Santa Fe area."

Vengoechea Martini says that even if the pandemic ended tomorrow and restrictions on gathering lifted along with it, Teatro Paraguas would continue the partnership with Xerb. Additionally, numerous productions and events are being taped right now for inclusion on the platform. Up next, the theater's annual Christmas show, A Musical Piñata for Christmas, which hits its eighth year in 2020.

"It's like a fun little romp," says Alix Hudson, Paraguas company member and the show's writer for the sixth year running. "We've got 20 cast members ranging in age, I think, 60 years between the oldest and youngest, and it's sort of a meta family piece about a big sprawling family that normally gets together during the holidays but has to do it on Zoom. The idea is that your best might not be as good as you want it to be right now, and that's OK."

A Musical Piñata for Christmas will be broadcast live over Zoom, recorded, and put up on Xerb shortly after.

"The nuances of interacting virtually are…we had an advantage, because I wrote this very specifically for Zoom, and I think we've had some really creative approaches," Hudson explains, referencing the theater's recent production of Love in the DMZ. "Learning all the different ways Xerb can be used as a medium—it's kind of theater, but not; it's kind of film, but not—we would definitely continue with Xerb."

Hudson, says at its heart, the partnership opens doors for accessibility as well as storytelling. She says Teatro Paraguas brass is already talking about experiments in multi-platform hybrid performances, and that applying for grants could even be easier with all of its content available in one place.

"Also," Streeper adds, "sometimes you just want to sit on your couch or press pause, make dinner and come back. A lot of people like that flexibility, and we're hoping Teatro Paraguas can expand its reach."

A Musical Piñata For Christmas:
7 pm Friday, Dec. 18. Free.

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