CORNWALL, Ontario – Instead of one stage, a local theatre troupe has produced its latest play from more than a dozen venues – the inside of each actors’ home.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, Seaway Valley Theatre Company’s Amy Malyon was left without a playbill to direct.
But Malyon and co-producers Allison Main and Brigitte Lefebvre-Malyon were able to regroup quickly when they found an intriguing alternative, producing the company’s first ever virtual play.
“We were really lucky,” Malyon said, explaining that a play developer, Beat by Beat Press, had a new one available, called ‘The Show Must Go Online’.
“They really quickly reacted with the COVID situation. A lot of school shows were being cancelled,” she said.
“They wrote this show precisely for overcoming the restrictions; it was written, designed and to be performed all virtually.
“We found this to be a new adventure – something that we could try to do at this time.”
With script and music in hand, the Seaway theatre put out casting calls not just to local thespians, but across North America.
“We asked them to submit a video, where they would do a little monologue, song and dance, and then we reviewed the videos and picked the cast.”
Although local youth were predominately picked, one girl from Cleveland and a boy in Idaho were also chosen.
“It was fun for the kids,” Malyon said. “They never had a chance to meet, but it was a great opportunity for the theatre to get exposure and reach another part of (the continent) for the cast and promote the show in their areas as well.”
Once the cast was assembled, rehearsals for each actor began via the Zoom technology format.
“Actually, a lot of the process was much quicker,” Malyon said, citing that rehearsals were held three times per week.
“What we did in the first rehearsal, is read the script to them, to show what kind of character we wanted. And they had to understand the story line of where each part fit it.”
On each Friday, the cast assembled individually to give feedback and how to adjust their performance.
Largely on their own outside of the actual rehearsals, the cast responded well.
“The kids were great,” Malyon said. “They took on additional responsibilities – like costumes, make-up and lighting – that is normally provided for them. (Myself and the producers) were responsible of course with helping them and directions. We used it as a (teaching) camp.
“It was a learning experience, and they rose to the occasion really easily – that was pretty cool to see.”
Once the final performances were video taped, the producers had the extra work of editing each segment into one stream. Although the crew had only their live theatre experience to draw from, Malyon said it went fairly smoothly.
“The way it is written is for a series of videos, so we just pieced them together.”
The storyline acts as something of mirror of the production process itself. The play revolves around a drama class that unites together in order to save a musical from being cancelled. Without it, the drama class would fold.
The show premieres on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. on YourTV Cornwall and on the theatre’s website: Seaway Valley Theatre Company. It will be available to stream on the website from Aug. 17 to Aug. 30. Viewing is free but donations will be accepted through Paypal.