Serenity Hill…in the Pandemic
The prevailing narrative when it comes to the arts and COVID-19 is often centered around what the pandemic has taken away from us. Somewhere along the way, UVA Drama grad and noted director and actor Larry Goldstein (GSAS '83) decided to look at it another way. “I thought to myself, ‘Is anybody doing anything? It felt like everyone was pushing things to the future. I started thinking about alternatives. I had seen some performances on Zoom, but none that had connected with me. Finally I decided, instead of complaining, why don’t I give it a try?”
The result of those efforts is Serenity Hill…in the Pandemic, an online series about the residents and the staff of an assisted living facility told through their Zoom calls to each other and to their friends and families. The series is based on a play of the same name Goldstein wrote, which was on the verge of being produced when the pandemic struck. The project’s format and timing allowed him to reach out to friends and colleagues from throughout his theatre career and spread across the country, and the world – from here in Charlottesville to Richmond, Manhattan, suburban Boston, and even Hong Kong.
The cast held its first reading in June, and the first episode aired in July. Goldstein and company now have two seasons under their belt and an unforgettable cast of characters telling stories that began with universal pandemic concerns like getting a haircut and have expanded to encompass issues of race, in response to the George Floyd murder, and controversial treatment options such as hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Current events aside, however, the first thing you notice about Serenity Hill is the utter humanity of all of its characters. Rather than being presented as a monolithic high-risk group facing the end of their lives, these seniors are full and vibrant. There is a love story and a wedding. There is a Zoom production of Hamlet in the works. And there are moving windows into the hearts of people who crave a way out of the feelings of isolation that we are all learning to deal with in the year 2020.
Serenity Hill…in the Pandemic also offers a glimpse into the lives of those who care for the facility’s residents. Often lost in the rush to properly venerate hospital personnel on the COVID front lines, these caregivers see and feel the pandemic even more acutely, all while juggling the emotions that brings and the realities of their own lives. Their depiction here adds another interesting layer to Goldstein’s story.
Learn more about Serenity Hill…in the Pandemic, and experience these stories for yourself by visiting serenityhill.tv!