Thank you to Age Friendly Edmonton for including us in their May Newsletter! Our Associate Director, Becca, had a wonderful time chatting with Linette Smith for the Shared Mic Podcast discussing Virtual Theatre. It was wonderful to sit down with Age Friendly Edmonton to share how our virtual programs have continued to evolve a year later.
Lights, [web] camera, action! The show goes on for local performers traversing the digital landscape
In sharing stories of adaptation, perseverance, and resourcefulness during this pandemic, there is no shortage of examples. A local theatrical partnership exemplifies all three, and in doing so, is providing audiences and actors alike with a whole new immersive experience.
Becca and Linette first sat down with Age Friendly Edmonton (AFE) for a virtual conversation last year. Linette Smith, Department Head of Fine and Performing Arts at Strathcona High School, and Becca Barrington, Associate Director of the GeriActors, exchanged thoughts about virtual theatre in season two, episode six of the AFE ‘Shared Mic’ podcast.
Through trial and error, both women pushed the limits of Zoom’s capabilities to bring captivating live theatre to their audiences. Prior to September, the GeriActors had been experimenting with performing existing material on Zoom. They soon discovered the online medium added a layer of spontaneity to their performances. Theatre games and new ways of storytelling resulted in the creation of four new stories. With the assistance of a dedicated student team, these stories were recorded and transcribed by hand.
“The GeriActors shared photos from their lives, their family members who are referenced in the stories, we found images on the internet, we had music that we had come up in the slides, and then they performed live,” says Becca. “We just had such a good time. So, we’re continuing with those stories.”
The stories will be featured in the upcoming spring showcase, Way Back, a new audio play. The play features a kaleidoscope of unique, true stories – living through WWII, farm life in Alberta and Sri Lanka, birth and motherhood, growing up in Trinidad, and more. Live performances will air May 18, 20, and 29 – tickets are available by donation online.
As for Linette, she’s been busy instructing students online – and they’ve taken to the medium quite readily, having performed live improv as part of the Wildfire Festival with Rapid Fire Theatre! Under her tutelage, her students have also completed a virtual theatre showcase for friends and family members. Linette’s Lunchtime Improv Jams have also taken off, proving a popular activity for both students and their families!
“A mom came in and did improv with us during the lunch hour, which was really fantastic and joyous,” says Linette. “And the daughter is so comfortable with her improv because her mom is starting to learn along with her.”
Learning from community has been an effective tool for both Linette and Becca in driving new ideas for digital performances. For example, the GeriActors have been exploring the idea of radio plays – an audio-only performance style that enjoyed widespread popularity in the mid-1900s. Many members of the GeriActors remember these shows fondly. Following their initial conversation in The Shared Mic, Linette introduced the concept to her fellow teachers.
“When you [Becca] talked about radio plays when we first met, I was like, ‘that is such a good idea’. And so teachers all across the province are now doing radio plays,” says Linette. “So, researching the old radio plays – and the ones with the crazy ads – it’s just super fun to listen to that. And dramatic, too, like, ‘oh my gosh, they’re selling coffee in the middle of this murder mystery? What is going on?’”
Members of the GeriActors ensemble and Strathcona High School students may be generations apart, but both have adapted to the new online medium following Becca and Linette’s guidance. We can’t wait to see what comes next for these intrepid performers!