Mentalist Jason Suran Brings People Together — Virtually — for a Theatrical Experience via Zoom
"Magical" isn't exactly the word most people would use for a majority of Zoom calls. This, however, is not your typical Zoom call.
Mentalist Jason Suran has created a unique, hourlong theatrical experience, called Reconnected, that brings people together even while keeping them safely apart. That goes for strangers and loved ones you haven't been able to see in a while due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Quite often, people will show up with their families, but all in different Zoom windows, spread out all over the country," Suran tells PEOPLE. "For some of them, the show is the first thing they'd done together in months, and that's really special and really cool."
Throughout the show, Suran integrates and interacts with the audience as he weaves stories and conversations into his jaw-dropping tricks and mind-readings. And Suran encourages the audience to use the app's chat function and to keep themselves off mute, allowing everyone to have a shared reaction to the show and each other ("If you sneeze, I'm going to hear," just like in a theater, Suran points out).
"There's a lot of understated value to these Zoom shows into the Zoom environment if you use it right," he says. "In a way, you're a lot closer to each other than you would be in a theater. You don't get to normally see each other react to theater in such an intimate way where there's a camera two inches from your face."
Suran admits that watching people share a moment with one another is "the most fun part of the show" — even when it distracts him from his own work.
"In the chat, people will talk to each other and sort of egg each other on. I live for that," he says. "There's this moment [in the show], where there's always just hilarious, hilarious stuff in the chat. I make a point to let myself get distracted by those moments because I want it to feel authentic and I want it to feel like we're all part of the same moment. I don't want there to be that separation between performer and audience."
Much like those work calls where anything can happen, Suran says he's now experienced any tech pratfall that could possibly happen — and he's ready for it.
"There were definitely growing pains: everything from sound and camera issues, to the internet going out in my neighborhood during a show and having to do the rest of the show from my cell phone on LTE, to suddenly realizing in the middle of the show that my power cord has come unplugged and my computer's at two percent and then having to surreptitiously pull the cable back over with my toes and try to plug it in without anybody noticing."
Suran is working on creating a "sequel" to Reconnected for the stage when theaters reopen and recognizes that his in-person performances will be forever changed by his current endeavor.
"I'm always going to be sort of grateful," he says. "It became very clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to, and I didn't want to, just take the work I was doing and try and shove it into a camera. If I wanted to do it right and create a show that was built for that platform, which hopefully it feels that way, almost everything in that show had to be new. The lesson I got from that is just that I'm capable of that. When left with no option, it is possible to build something completely new from the ground up. And, for me, that's something I want to try to do every time I create a show rather than just sort of draw from what's already in my bag.
"I think this time taught a lot of us that we are capable of starting from scratch, we are capable of reinventing. And that is really cool."
But, for now, Reconnected could make for a great date night or gift, even in lockdown, Suran notes. "It's the kind of gift you can experience with somebody, even if they are hundreds or thousands of miles away from you."
Reconnected is produced by actor Alan Cumming, Carl Moellenberg and Adam Rei Siegel. Shows are Friday and Saturday evenings, and tickets — available here — are $50 per screen. The show is recommended for ages 13+ due to language.
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