Performing during a pandemic
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
A few weeks ago I was weeding my vegetable garden, unaware that on the nearby porch our houseguest was playing a game of Spin the Bottle with Hulk Hogan.
This is probably the time to mention Hulk was actually a six-inch facsimile of the world-famous wrestler, and that our houseguest is DK Reinemer, an actor, improviser and former Upfront Theatre mainstage player and teacher who now makes his living traveling the world as a solo performer. At least that’s what he was doing when he showed up at my house in mid-March for a 10-day visit that has since extended into May and possibly beyond (depending on Washington state’s shelter-in-place edict).
Now, instead of kicking off his Summer 2020 tour at an improv festival in Phoenix that would’ve been followed by a three-week residency teaching improv and working with a comedy troupe in Japan, and debuting his new one-man show, “DK: Lost in Space,” Reinemer is stuck in my basement. But as evidenced by the aforementioned make-out session with the Hulk, he’s making the most of his downtime.
“I’m adapting to my situation and put my live show aside for a bit,” he says. “I’m shifting my focus toward making short videos, writing comedy songs, and building my YouTube channel and online comedy content.”
So far, he’s interviewed my two chickens, made “Learn to Juggle During the Pandemic” and “How to Cut Your Own Hair During the Pandemic” tutorial videos, had a cameo in a Bellingham-based music video that featured him dancing and juggling from the safety of my front porch, and has filmed a number of short sketches including “The Birthday Party”—starring him and the aforementioned Hogan figurine he filmed on his actual birthday.
Reinemer posts some of the content to his Facebook page, but saves others for his Patreon account (http://www.patreon.com/DKReinemer). The crowdsourcing platform for artists and creators allows people to become patrons of their favorite artists and projects on an ongoing basis via monthly payments of anywhere from $3-$100. They’re paid back with fresh content. In Reinemer’s case, he gives them early access to his original comedy videos—everything from sketches to parodies, standup, songs and more—and provides behind-the-scenes footage, merch and even direct influence on what goes in his shows.
“I first heard about it from Bellingham legend Shawnee Kilgore, who puts out a new song every week,” he says. “As a patron, I give her $2 per song, which is $8 a month. I think that’s a pretty cool way to directly support a fellow artist. I’m also a patron to a graphic novelist in Montreal and a fellow fringe touring artist in Portland.”
Although Reinemer says he understands why fellow performers and producers are feeling frustrated that they can’t share their talents in front of live audiences right now, he says there are still ways people can cure their stage withdrawal. He points to online shows, podcasts, livestreaming, ZoomImprov shows and more and encourages people to “dive in.” (See the sidebar for a few suggestions.) He’s also learned not to compare the comedy he does on Zoom or podcasts to live performances. He realizes they’re different animals, and says it’s important to honor them.
When it was suggested he could perform one of his most popular shows, “Becoming Magic Mike,” to an audience of two in my backyard as a way to quell his desire to perform, Reinemer allowed that would be a possibility, but only if the chickens help run lights and sound.
He also had some advice for those wanting to support local artists and the arts community at large.
“Every small-town theater across the globe is struggling to stay alive right now, and sadly a lot of them will likely not make it through,” he says. “Take a chance on a livestream show if it helps support an artist or theater you know and love. It may not be as good as the live version, but we’re figuring it out, and it will get better. But for now, we need your support in this weird technological time.
“Until things open back up, I’m going to just keep cranking out as much fun, smartly dumb, original comedy content as I can, and hopefully it will bring some joy into the world and make some people laugh. At the very least, I got to play Spin the Bottle with Hulk Hogan.”
50 States Project. My pal in Los Angeles, Joey Clift, is reaching out to any and all comedians/musicians to produce the “Our 50 States Project,” which is making an album for every state in the United States. I’ve contributed a bunch of songs and the cover art for the South Dakota album.
ZoomProv. Lots of theaters are still doing live improv shows on Zoom or ZoomProv. Kickstand Comedy in Portland, the Pack Theater in Los Angeles, SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando, Blind Tiger Comedy in Vancouver, BC and many more are involved.
Take online classes. I took a great class from a friend of mine at the Pack Theater in Los Angeles called “Pilot Structure,” and more than 20 people tuned in. I also took a hip-hop dance class from a friend of mine in Toronto and her dance company called Dance Fachin, and she taught a bunch of us the Britney Spears classic “Baby One More Time” (yes, I did that in your basement).
Podcasts. Pandemics are perfect for podcasting because you don’t have to be in the same place. I was a guest on “Amanda and Emily: We Have A Podcast” the other day and it was a blast.
Video submission shows. There’s a bunch of great video submission shows that are usually hosted live, but they show sketches and it’s a great way to put your content out there. My birthday sketch has been featured on several great ones, “Go Sketch Yourself!” out of the Pack Theater in Los Angeles and “Dave’s Basement” out of Portland, Oregon. Both of these shows are weekly and are always taking submissions.
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