The world may have stopped, but the show must go on! In the wake of COVID-19, Auckland theatre companies are moving their productions online. This week, Daniela Vinagre breaks down how online theatre will work.
The current situation of the world has been a blow on various sectors, including our social and cultural lives. For the theatre community, this blow has cut right through the core of live performance. The whole experience involves a large gathering of people – actors, directors, stage managers, producers, audiences… or does it? Different theatre organisations have put their creative minds to work and came up with innovative ways of delivering live performance to the community. It turns out all we need is the internet. That’s right: the internet! An example of this is University of Auckland’s very own Stray Theatre Company.
The first half of 2020 has been tough on Stray – they had to postpone two of their shows. The historical bill Sappho of Lesbos and the original bill Fat Cats Inc. will have to take place later in the year. But that does not mean that the wheels of theatre must come to a stop. Stir Fried XII is happening, even if New Zealand remains under lockdown.
Some of you less theatrical folks might be wondering – what in the world is Stir Fried XII? Well let me tell you! It is your annual dose of student written, directed and performed short plays!…with a twist. This year’s production is called “Deconstructed” because of – yeah you guessed right – the one and only Covid-19. “This year, unless circumstances change significantly and the safety of our community can be assured, Stir Fried XII will not be performed in a theatre,” says the committee in an email sent out to the members of Stray.
Stir Fried has a reputation of bringing a lot of people together, from inside and outside the theatre community. Multiple teams of writers, directors and actors work on the same production. It does get a little crazy… It is also the perfect opportunity for aspiring playwrights and people wanting to dip their toes in acting. Last year’s production was a success as the first one to have an overall arching theme – the nine circles of hell – so the team decided to stick with that structure. This year they are looking for short performance pieces that can be performed by small groups of people and filmed online, like monologues and small cast plays.
“We’re really just wanting to try and emulate the feeling of theatre bringing people together,” said Stray Theatre Company president Chloe Bagayas. The plan as of right now is to do an online “Stir Fried Weekend,” in the context that all participants will be going on a virtual camping trip. The event is to happen on the weekend of 29-30 May and will involve bonfires, online games and workshops.
“As of now most of this is planned to happen online but Stray will be releasing more detailed info very soon” Bagayas said. There might be a possibility for Stray to hold some in-person workshops, given the recent announcement that New Zealand will be moving to Alert Level 2, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Although I’ll have to say my fingers are crossed, as I am sure most Stray members’ are as well – a reunion of sorts would be amazing!
The “Stir Fried weekend” will culminate with a closing bonfire where participants will get the opportunity to perform what they worked on in the workshops. This bonfire will happen on Sunday night and it is free for anyone to watch over Zoom. So stock up on your snacks and get ready for some live theatre from the comfort of your couch!
However, if this sounds like something you would like to participate in, Stray will be sending out a sign-up form to their members. If you are not yet a member, there is no need to panic – you can sign up at straytheatrecompany.com to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!
Another group deserving of praise is Auckland Theatre Company. They have also adopted innovative ways of delivering live performance. Their most recent production “Chekhov’s The Seagull, a new online version” premiered last Friday over Zoom. This new online version by Eli Kent and Eleanor Bishop, directed by Eleanor Bishop, presents a challenge to the actors. They only have a week per episode to read the script, learn their lines and rehearse.
The Company is releasing four 30-minute-long episodes, over four weeks. All episodes air on Friday nights at 7:30pm and they are free to watch. But if you missed out the first one there is no need to panic – it is still available on the Company’s Facebook page. My advice is that you catch up and save the date for the next three Friday nights.
Another University club that has managed to stay connected with the community is Auckland University Dance Association (AUDA). AUDA has been delivering online dance classes throughout lockdown, to keep their members moving. These classes are free for anyone to take and have been happening over Zoom. They have also kept their community engaged with their TikTok challenge “TikTok Lockdown Throwdown.” To keep yourself on the loop, I recommend you check out their Facebook page as well.
Although lockdown has been a difficult time, some people have gone above and beyond to keep us entertained. For that, they deserve our praise and our gratitude. And things are looking up! Soon enough we’ll be able to go to an overcrowded theatre, or complain that there are far too many people in the dance studio. Until then sit back and relax, the show is about to start.