The great pause... that's what we are in, I guess, and for me and many of the people I know, the biggest shift has been the loss of live in-person theatre. For me this was huge because of the amount of shows I normally saw on a monthly/weekly basis. Even with my slowing over the last few years, the shift was noticeable.
Prior to last night, the last show I saw was Girl in the Machine in March. I don't think I blogged about it because right afterwards everything shut down. I was due to see a show at Shadow Theatre and postponed going due to being tired (how I wish I hadn't done that). I was also mentoring a director at Walterdale and had sat in on some rehearsals just prior to it all stopping. I remember feeling at the time that this was just going to be a few months. With my work at Walterdale we had many conversations about the shows in rehearsal. One was 2 weeks from Opening, the New Works (6 one acts) had just been cast, and the July musical was set to have their first read-through. So many conversations. So many if-then plans (if we can open by this date, then we can still do the show; if we open by this date, then we can do it in concert; if we cancel by this date, then we don't lose the royalties...). At all stages those conversations were heart-breaking, challenging, The various teams were creative. Most of the New Works decided to record zoom readings of their brand new/in-development plays and we were able to share those with our membership on-line. The team for the musical also did a zoom first read-through which allowed them to celebrate the show that would-have-been and hopefully this allowed for some temporary closure for them. At this point we do not know when we will be able to do a musical again (and after reading about this community theatre production of Mamma Mia!, I think we are right to wait). At the Board level we have had many many many conversations about what opening might looks like. We struck a committee to develop a plan to make sure that when we do reopen we are safe for everyone, our members and our audiences. We are definitely erring on the side of extreme caution (we are well aware how many of our audience members fall into the high risk categories). I have said over and over "We do not need to be first!"
So that brings me to last night. Last night I went to a show, in a theatre, with live actors onstage and other people in the house. It was the Horizon Lab at the Citadel, with their first show Where are Your Stories? "You are so brave." said one friend on Facebook. It never once felt unsafe. Certainly if felt different. But compared to a trip to Safeway or Shoppers, it was so incredibly well managed. Clear, explicit directions on mask-wearing and controlled socially distanced seating. An almost religious-ceremony of baptizing our hands with sanitizer on our entry. Everyone in masks. Even the show is kept clean - with a technician sanitizing the deck and set pieces that may have been touched by actors in the previous scene. I did not feel it was bravery to go, because I never felt unsafe in the situation.
It was so nice to be in the familiar space. To share in applause and laughter with a group of people. The zoom and other online performances have been nice, but there is something about that communion of a live audience. Even the familiar irritation at the audience member in front of my who kept looking at his phone was kind of cool, because the feeling was nostalgic (Ah! I remember this!).
The show(s) were... interesting, thought-provoking, and generous. They were all very different as you might expect from the varied backgrounds of those involved. Some were more compelling than others. Some were better written than others, Some were better performed than others. Some I understood, and some were a bit confusing. Some were angry, some sad, and some joyful. So, all in all, it was a pretty good night for theatre.
I hope that the future offers me more of these nights. I'm good with going slowly and safely. I'm just happy to be back in my church.