Yoga is all around us in New York City. If I had a dime for every yoga mat and outfit I see every day I could get myself a yearly Citi Bike account easily. Like every good theatre person and New Yorker, I have dabbled with yoga and have many friends who are devoted practitioners. One of these theatre and yoga people has recently co-created a web series that I like too much not to tell you about. It's called Yoga Partners, and its charming mix of excellent theatre actors, we-tease-because-love yoga jokes, and great writing are a few of the many reasons this web series is one of my new favorite things.
Though I usually write about theatre, Yoga Partners's pedigree owes so much to theatre and theatre makers that it seems to be a natural fit. Actors Leah Henoch (whose performances I've enjoyed since we were both acting apprentices at The Berkshire Theatre Festival) and Katie Schorr have co-written a story about a partnered yoga class taught by an imperfect teacher. If you have read or seen Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation, that piece serves as a logical sort of ancestor to this concept. Both feature a teacher whose genuine attempts at leadership might not always succeed in the way she intended, but still lead people to unexpected friendships and discoveries.
Actors are often encouraged to practice yoga because of the ways in which it brings about awareness and control of your body. The characters on Yoga Partners remind me of the kind of well-meaning souls I have encountered in my yoga trysts. Maybe this is because, as co-writer Henoch says, "Many of the characters were inspired by real people we've encountered or were written specifically for the actor." Indeed, Schorr adds, "Everybody we wrote just felt so real to us; they felt like amalgams of people we knew from class or versions of ourselves and ultimately we wanted, and still want, them to feel like humans."
And they do. The belly laughs from this show remind me of plays like the aforementioned Circle Mirror Transformation in their charming awkwardness. We aren't laughing at these folks, in fact we're often voicing the laughter the characters are attempting to stifle in deference to the restful yoga environment. The simple juxtaposition of the quirky characters that populate this city and its yoga mats is part of the simple brilliance of this show.
As Henoch says, "most of the yoga shows I've seen online seem to highlight the new agey characters one might find in a yoga class and I think we wanted to show the other side. Yes, there can be that element there, but most people at least I've seen in yoga classes aren't new agey. Many different types of people do yoga and I think we wanted to show that and see what happened when they were put on a mat together." What happens is a lot of negotiation, discovery, and laughter from both characters and audience.
The improvisational and theatrical roots of this homegrown web-series gives it a fresh and easy style that appeals to me in the way these kinds of shows usually don't. In fact, this is the only web series I have ever stayed with for more than one episode. With sharp writing, fantastic actors and writers, and a charm that's all their own, Yoga Partners is definitely worth checking out. For more information, check out their latest episode, the last of this season, or subscribe to their youtube channel here.