Sofie & Carlo virus season
Sofie and Carlo, the two interns working for this renowned festival somewhere in Europe, are also facing times of uncertainty.
Home is Where the Laptop is
In the Festival's secluded valley in the hills of Europe the sun had come out along with tentative yellow flowers in city window boxes. On the trains skiers in knotted caps and and après-skiers in faux fur hats were gradually being replaced by cheerful types with walking poles, sensible shoes and the sort of knapsacks only suitable for spare socks, a packed lunch and bottles of water. Rambling up hills was taking over from falling down them. Read episode 1 now!
No Time to Lose
Carlo struggled from his bed at 8.15am, almost as usual. Getting up had never been his thing but the work imperatives of shower, coffee, breakfast pastry, dressing to his satisfaction (a level judged by whether any girl glanced at him while he waited for the tram), the tram ride itself and more coffee from the place on the corner opposite the festival office, all required him to force himself from under the duvet at 7.45 most mornings. Read episode 2 now!
The Trials of Lockdown Mornings
The apartment was simply not big enough for three people all day, all night, even if they were family or lovers, or just friends you really liked. For three women who hardly knew each other it was already proving a strain after only a week. The problem, Sofie thought as she emerged from the shower and tried to find her own towel on the over crowded wall hooks, was the clash of habits – and the clash with Inez. Christina wasn't so bad. Read episode 3 now!
The Sound of Silence
Oxana stomped around the empty festival office feeling despondent. What was the point of being General Manager if there was nobody in the building to generally manage? She could be fierce to the walls, angry with the equipment, stroppy with the coffee pot and rude to the windows but nobody was there to care. Her useless, spineless Artistic Director, whose tantrums were like the tears of a six year-old, was being pathetic in his country cottage, she assumed. Probably taking his chickens for a walk. Read episode 4 now!
Fundraising the Modern Way
Carlo was wondering how to construct his morning. He could, after all, quite legitimately do nothing at all – go back to bed, play a video game, lie in the bath until his skin felt like soggy paper. He was an intern, not a full member of staff. His expenses were being paid by the festival, including an allowance for food (which in his definition included 'fermented fruit juice'), but he was officially unemployed in Italy. He was helping the festival out as a mere volunteer, just one with a letter of agreement that, honestly, was not a contract. Read episode 5 now!
Insecurity for Some
The 8.45am staff meeting was a nervous one. Days after the usually fierce General Manager, Oxana, had been told bluntly by the immovable Mayor that all the money for the festival was to be cut off, the unthinkable had happened. The Mayor had phoned her personally: not via Skype or Zoom, a private old-fashioned phone call. Read episode 6 now!
There were worse new arrangements in place at the festival a week after the Mayor had announced that half its money would be withdrawn. Not only was there no office to go to (true for everyone in virus months, of course), there were not the usual layers of management staff between the interns, Estonian Sofie and Italian Carlo, and the General Manager, Oxana. Already the Artistic Director had been told his services were 'in abeyance', as the President of the Board had put it as tactfully as he could. Read episode 7 now!
“All audience members are wonderful,” Sofie intoned to herself again and again like a meditation mantra. She walked round and round her bedroom. “All audience members are wonderful. I mean it. I really mean it.” She glared at her phone. Read episode 8 now!
The Inadvertent Power of Art
To be Artistic Director of one of Europe's great festivals, with its history of music, theatre and occasional open-air wash-outs, should surely be an honour to relish. It calls for flair as much as diplomacy, daring as much as a sense of proportion. Most of all it should bring with it a sense that the Director is excited, having fun and expects everyone else to be. Read episode 9 now!
The sun was shining and people were venturing out to meet at safe if inconvenient distances. Those who mumbled were no longer heard. The art of vocal projection across a pavement and through a face mask became a new and important quality in a friend or colleague. Oxana, festival General Manager, had never had a problem with projection. It was always fierce enough to bounce off a distant wall. Read episode 10 now!
On Wednesday morning Sofie and Carlo sat across the table from each other outside in the sunshine. The small town square was halfway between their apartments and, after weeks of being stuck in them, the café's tables (spaced wide as per virus regulations) had become their new office without them having to discuss anything complicated. It was just where they naturally felt it right to be when the rain held off. Read episode 11 now!
Preparations for the opening of the festival were feverish with only four weeks to go until the Grand Opening – or, as Carlo had renamed it, the Not-very-grand-any-more Opening. It was all very well going from an indoor to an outdoor festival. It was all fine placing performers at a notionally safe distance from each other on the stage. Everyone understood that this was going to be a peculiar experience for audiences and performers alike. The practicalities were less than practical. Read episode 12 now!
Sofie and Carlo, festival interns extraordinaires, were surrounded by boxes. Standing in what was left of the centre of the main office, they felt rather like fugitives caught by circling police cars. Around them the boxes continued to multiply as delivery drivers piled them up from a succession of vans, while the General Manager, Oxana, stood in the doorway of her office shouting fierce orders at them. Read episode 13 now!
Time to Relax
If the days of total isolation were coming to an end and people were starting to think about heading for airports once again (though more out of necessity than pleasure), for Sofie the prospect of home was still distant. There were still two weeks to go before the festival started. Even in its truncated form it was due to last a month. Then there would be the inevitable wind down and clean up before her internship came to an end and she would be free to return to Estonia and the embers of her old life. Read episode 14 now!
The Sun Shines Bright
With only days left before the festival was due to start, Carlo's usual languid style (never hurry, never show haste) was showing signs of stress. This upcoming season was going to be so different than last year's. One might have thought that was because so many events had changed, so many plans been hurled into the rubbish bin. But no. The stress was more personal. He was having to work. Read the final episode now!