By Madeline Armstrong
Editor’s note: Armstrong first wrote this piece as part of her internship at Herald Community Newspapers. To read the original, click here.
After 17 months of pandemic restrictions, East Rockaway native Michael Quadrino’s production company On The Quays is celebrating LGBTQ+ pride and returning to society with a film titled, “Reemergence: A Queer Visual Album.”
“Reemergence,” a “visual album,” comprises music videos, or “chapters,” and was released in June. Quadrino, the co-founder and managing director of On The Quays, said the company usually puts on a live concert every year to celebrate Pride Month. Because of the pandemic, however, last summer’s concert was staged on Zoom. This year, the company wanted to do something different.
“A Zoom concert can only be so good because of the technology that is limiting,” Quadrino said.
He and the other members of On The Quays, which was founded in September 2016, decided to dip their toes in something new and make a film. Before developing “Reemergence,” the team had only worked in theater productions and live concerts, but Quadrino said they had long wanted to try a film. The uncertainty of what Pride 2021 would look like gave them the perfect excuse to create one.
According to Quadrino, the film develops the idea of re-emerging into society after the pandemic and what that means for the LGBTQ+ community. “Let’s explore what it means to celebrate pride after a year of being walled in alone,” he said.
Each musical “chapter” of the film pays homage to a different era with a postmodern, jukebox-esque style. All five were crafted through the lens of different directors and filmed in different locations. The company brought in many well-known directors and choreographers, including performer and director Darren Lee, who was involved in “Hackers” and “Chicago.”
Lee directed and choreographed the first chapter of “Reemergence.” He said he enjoyed creating his chapter and hoped viewers would leave feeling a sense of community and understanding.
“Without [a community], it can be very isolating, and you feel like you’re the only person,” he said. “It can be a very dangerous place to be all by yourself.”
Although the creation of “Reemergence” provided new opportunities for On The Quays, it was not without its challenges. Because production began before New York reopened, Covid-19 protocols had to be followed. People were masked at all times unless they were on camera, tested and received vaccinations when they became available.
“Navigating first-time film production in a pandemic was definitely a challenge,” Quadrino said.
Quadrino’s husband, Keiji Ishiguri, a director, music producer and arranger, said it was an exciting challenge.
“In many ways, it was a fun challenge to be able to create our first music album entirely on our own from our new production studio, which is basically my apartment,” he said.
The two turned their Manhattan apartment into a recording studio in order to provide a safe and cost-effective way to create the music videos.
Although theaters and live performances are opening up again, On The Quays plans to continue exploring film, in addition to those experiences. “We love theater,” said Nicola Murphy, the company’s artistic director, “but we equally love film and expressing ourselves through that medium, and we definitely want to keep that going.”
Quadrino said he hoped people would feel a sense of joy after watching the final product.
“There’s a quote we love: ‘Joy is an act of resistance,’” he said. “The more joyful everyone is, the more courageous you get and the more you want to move towards a future where we can all be like that.”