Peo­ple’s Light offers a the­atri­cal take on soap operas with Amer­i­ca 2am’

3 minute read

The best seat in the house for watching America 2am, from Malvern-based theater People’s Light, might just be your closet—or some other dark and cozy spot fit for absorbing a guilty pleasure.

Late night thoughts

An original online anthology series, America 2am encourages viewers to become voyeurs and witnesses to private late-night Zoom conversations. With episodes dropping online throughout March, a new cast and storyline, as well as a rotating coterie of writers and directors, will bring each of the four pilot episodes to life.

Each episode, running roughly 30 minutes, is set in February 2021 at 2am, somewhere in America, and being produced at “rapid speed.” With writing completed in January, each episode is being rehearsed, recorded, and edited a week at a time in February. Since episodes also must receive English and Spanish captions, there is no room for continuous reshoots. Depending on audience response, the project could grow into a longer series, People’s Light producing director Zak Berkman said.

The concept isn’t so much a rethinking of theater, but a reimagining of Zoom technology capabilities, said Berkman, who is also the writer of two episodes. In the early months of the pandemic, Berkman said he found himself reflecting on the global drama through a personal lens.

“What are these conversations that people might be having at two in the morning in America in the midst of a pandemic? And what if we married that question with this sort of soap opera idea of the secrets and scandals that might be occurring late at night?” Berkman said.

Theatrical soap operas

A veteran of daytime television himself (his writing credits include NBC’s Days of Our Lives), Berkman recalled how soap operas were among the earliest forms of fiction to jump into television and shape the medium. On the surface, they told salacious stories—love triangles, faked deaths, evil twins. Underneath, they featured TV-history-making storylines involving abortion, interracial marriage, and LGBTQ characters.

With a focus on similarly exploring Zoom storytelling, America 2am presented an opportunity for People’s Light to work with writers Candrice Jones and Guadalís Del Carmen, who wrote episodes “Leaving Teaching” and “Lucía and Sophi Moans,” respectively. Also shaping the project are directors Abigail Adams, Steve H. Broadnax III, and David Mendizábal—as well as Omkar Purandare, who serves as director of photography and editor for the series, a role necessary for a digital production.

Berkman said he and People’s Light are focusing on supporting artists during the pandemic—even if that means retooling their skills into a new, somewhat unknown medium.

“Playwrights and theatermakers are very adept at trying to make sense out of tragedy, out of challenge, out of loss in very immediate ways,” Berkman said. “That's the skill set that feels very theatrical to me about America 2am.”

What, When, Where, and Accessibility:

America 2am is recommended for ages 18+ and can be digitally streamed at PeoplesLight.org with an online account. A one-time $15 purchase includes access to all episodes: "Oh, Canada" streaming March 1 through April 4, 2021; "Leaving Teaching" streaming March 15 through April 4, 2021; "The Perilous Flight" streaming March 22 through April 4, 2021; "Lucía and Sophi Moans" streaming March 29 through April 4, 2021. Dates subject to change.

All People's Light digital content includes optional captioning.

Image description: Promotional artwork for America 2am digital anthology series from People’s Light. The title of the production appears in dashed, red type, recalling the display of a digital alarm clock. Behind the text and in a soft-focus is the image of a person lying in bed with their head resting on a blue pinstripe pillow and face obscured by the glow of a hand-held smartphone.

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