Since the start of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard a lot of words and phrases that we weren’t used to hearing so much before. “Unprecedented”, for example. Another instance being the historical event that was the 1918-1920 flu pandemic that spread through the world. Obviously there are a lot of parallels to today, and the fact that it was 100 years ago, has led to an increase not only in people’s awareness, but their curiosity too. Just how did people handle it back then? Are there lessons to be learned? Warnings to heed?

Well, I don’t have those answers, but it’s a fascinating topic and one I have found great benefit in exploring more of. How serendipitous then that I should be approached by a director to audition for a new series about that 1918 Spanish flu.

Portrayals is a four episode series and according the producing company Guiltner Creative Productions, it concerns “moving stories inspired by survivors of the 1918 Flu pandemic. Actors in modern-day stay-home situations portray the voices of those who wrote in letters and diaries over 100 years ago in the world’s worst flu pandemic.”

For my part, I have the honor to portray an American soldier stationed in Germany, writing to his parents and sweetheart back in the States. This is actually the first episode and according to the show’s IMDb page, it’s summed up as such: “Edith writes letters to her boyfriend, Alfred, who is away at war during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. They grapple with life’s uncertainties as the fast moving virus threatens their future.”

My job now is to dig deep and really try to put myself in Alfred’s shoes. I am sure I can relate in some ways – wearing a mask perhaps – but there are naturally some additional stakes in his war-torn world that I’ll have to consider.

Fortunately I’m backed by director, Clayton Guiltner, who is also writing and co-producing. While we haven’t worked together in many years (fun bit o’ trivia; he was my first acting teacher and coach), we have been able to seamlessly swing into collaboration, which is huge considering the fact that we are shooting and rehearsing from a distance. Isn’t it great that I already have so much video equipment thanks to Mischief Tales?

Either way, I’m really very excited to dig into this character – this real person – and get to work on camera doing so. I’m also very grateful, bearing in mind just how special it is to be working on any project during these times.

The show is Portrayals and you can catch it on Amazon Prime soon!

Another fun fact: not the first time I’ve portrayed a WWI soldier. This is from Mary’s Wedding at the Commonweal Theatre, directed by Megan K. Pence. Photo by Ana Hagedorn.

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