Quarantine Comedy in SLAC Digital Shorts


(Courtesy of the Salt Lake Acting Company)

By Kate Button, Arts Writer, Copy Editor


After temporarily closing in March in response to the ever-growing COVID-19 pandemic, the Salt Lake Acting Company has announced a new season of digital productions to offset the lack of theatre throughout this calendar year.

In September, SLAC announced that they were embarking on their “49 3/4 Season.” In 1970, SLAC hosted their first season of theatrical productions, and last September — in 2019 — marked their 49th season. However, because this year was radically interrupted, it didn’t seem fair to SLAC’s history to deem the 2020 season the 50th season — hence, the 49 3/4 moniker.

To transition to a digital presence, SLAC kicked off their “49 3/4 Season” with a collection of digital shorts posted to their Youtube channel.


The first short, “Online,” was posted on Sept. 18. This first digital short invites the audience to tune in to future digital shorts and the musical format allows the actors to reflect on the joy they receive from their work. The short features actors doom-scrolling, attending zoom meetings and attempting to cope with a version of life that is almost entirely held in a virtual space. “Online” parodies the song “Skid Row (Downtown)” from the Off-Broadway musical “Little Shop of Horrors.” This digital short is a love letter to the Salt Lake Acting Company, offering a digital escape from the new lives we’ve been forced to lead as a result of the pandemic.

SLAC has continued to release additional shorts throughout the fall, and will eventually have 10 shorts posted to compose this digital collection. As of writing this piece, seven digital shorts have been released, and the latest two, “Brown Bananas” and “Editing 2020” have touched on facets of life in 2020 that are incredibly relatable.

“Brown Bananas”

Brown Bananas features Julie Silvestro Waite in the role of a housewife who has lost her routine and normal sense of the passage of time. Seeing her recently brought bananas turn brown sparks a sense of panic and she can’t remember if it has been one day or one week since purchasing them — but the idea of baking banana bread, as we all seemingly did earlier in the year, brings relief.

I thought that these elements of the short were done effectively and were funny to watch, but as two kids watch these events transpire, other issues of racial justice, climate change and COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on certain communities are briefly mentioned. This part of the short seemed like a throwaway attempt to be more relatable or discuss more serious aspects of the tumultuous turns this year has brought. However, it did not seem like these issues were handled with care and instead were a distraction from the intended comedic effect of the “banana bread panic.” These issues were brought up as items left on a to-do list and as a result this presentation seemed to neglect just how painful and complex these issues are. While the short was comedic and effectively made fun of our collective baking habits and loss of the ability to see the passage of time, the final scenes felt insensitive — I was shocked by how these serious topics were treated as items that could just be briefly mentioned. 

“Editing 2020”

On Nov. 13, the short “Editing 2020” was published, and this video brings to life the idea that the ‘writers of 2020 have thrown too much at the world. A publisher (Mina Sadoon) speaks with an author (Jae Weit), criticizing how the fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and murder hornets all seem a little excessive. The year is discussed as a trendy apocalyptic young adult novel. Between natural disasters, the citizens’ failure to comply with measures to stop the pandemic and the narcissistic, racist president who’s a sexual predator, the novel just seems unrealistic. I thought this short was much more effective in featuring the plot twists that this year has brought, and each facet of the year was treated as the gravely serious items that they are. Because of how these elements were treated, it was easier to find the comedy in this sketch, as it does seem ridiculous to think about just how much we have endured this year. 

Additional Digital Shorts

Other shorts in the SLAC collection thus far discuss anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists, religious fanatics, people searching for an end to their social isolation and apocalyptic, political views of the pandemic — as represented by the Salt Lake City Mayor and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While some of these shorts have been hit or miss, I appreciate their effort to offer a comedic refuge from the pain and isolation of life in quarantine. As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket, these shorts from a local acting company demonstrate how we can continue to join together and revel in the arts in the midst of the pandemic. 

In addition to these digital shorts, the “49 3/4 Season” at SLAC also includes streaming performances of “American Dreams,” “Climbing with Tigers,” “Four Women Talking About the Man Under the Sheet,” “Alabaster” and an inaugural production of “#SLACabaret.”

While 2020 has put many elements of the art world on hold, SLAC demonstrates that with creativity, the show can still go on — even if it can only occur in a digital space. 


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