In addition to a 10-year run playing the bumbling Bart Beiderbecke on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” Steve Blackwood has appeared in numerous other television shows, movies, and plays while teaching acting at colleges and universities.
With the COVID-19 crisis entering its sixth month, the Newburyport resident is ensuring the show goes on with a series of online plays in which he appears alongside his students.
“It’s a real challenge, but I have to out-create this pandemic,” said Blackwood, 64. “I haven’t been inside a building except my house since this started, so I have to force myself to work and stay busy and disciplined. Even if I don’t always know what day it is.”
On Aug. 1, more than 700 viewers tuned into Facebook Live for a Zoom reading of “Family Game Night,” a one-act, 39-minute play that Blackwood wrote and produced about his family life growing up in Detroit.
Blackwood set his Zoom background to black to indicate that his character — his own alcoholic father, Phil ― is deceased. The eight-member cast also features Teresa Spaulding of Newburyport, Jennifer Drummond of Malden, Caio Alvim of Brighton, Killarney Traynor of Chester, N.H., Jeremy Labrie of Fall River, Bob Tourangeau of Claremont, N.H., and Mary Higgins of Beverly as the narrator.
Blackwood said he “got a chance to rewrite my dysfunctional family history, forgive, and move on” by confronting his father about the effects of his destructive behavior.
“Of all the work I’ve done, this is my most personal. And what I’m proudest of,” said Blackwood, noting that numerous viewers contacted him through Facebook to share similar personal struggles. “Getting it out in the open for other people to see feels like a weight lifted from my shoulders.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Blackwood Productions is collaborating with Thorndike Productions to produce “Private,” a homage to 1940s film noir with a modern twist. Written and directed by Blackwood and starring Blackwood and Ally Looney of Winchester, the 15-minute Zoom play will premiere on YouTube at 7 p.m.
In addition to writing and performing, Blackwood has been teaching private acting classes via Zoom during the pandemic while submitting his work to film festivals. So far this year, “Stuck” — a short comedy he cowrote with David Susman ― has been accepted to eight film festivals worldwide. The pair’s previous collaboration, the 2019 short film “Meet the Author,” won several awards.
While Blackwood acknowledged missing applause and interacting on stage with his fellow actors, he said there are advantages to online performances. For example, he noted that more people watched the premiere of “Family Game Night” than could have attended a weekend run at some local theaters.
“I’m trying to do my part to keep myself and other actors working,” Blackwood said, “and keep the arts alive.”
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.