Theatres learned quickly how to improvise when COVID-19 restrictions hit
For local theatre companies, 2020 will be remembered as a year of forced innovation.
When the pandemic slashed audience capacity by two-thirds or shuttered theatre venues completely, companies had to learn to improvise.
Theatre Calgary showed the way with its summer online production of Romeo and Juliet. It was a pretty rudimentary achievement but it proved not only that filmed theatre was possible but that it was needed. The response to Romeo and Juliet was impressive and enthusiastic.
Theatre Calgary was back online in December with a filmed version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol that was stunning in its use of cameras to capture nuances in the performances of Stephen Hair, Jamie Tognazzini and Marshall Vielle that would have been lost in the Max Bell Theatre.
Between TC'S two online offerings, we also had Forte Musical Theatre Guild's slick, fun version of its popular cabaret musical Naughty But Nice and Alberta Theatre Projects live workshop of a new stage version of the family classic The Wizard of Oz by playwright Andrew Scanlon.
Vertigo Theatre highlighted local acting and writing talents with its radio mystery theatre offerings and then teamed up with Lunchbox Theatre to present a radio version of the celluloid classic It's a Wonderful Life.
Dickens' A Christmas Carol received more online attention with Blue Jeans Theatre's Christmas Carol A Drag Show, Morpheus Theatre's filmed radio version of Scrooge's journey, Rosebud Theatre's one-man Christmas Carol and, perhaps the most unique, Loose Moose's silent movie version.
At the head of the pack of online filmed theatre shows is Storybook Theatre's Annie that runs until Jan. 17. It beautifully captures the feel of a live theatre experience, so much so for me, that I kept wondering why there wasn't tumultuous applause for some of the big musical numbers and powerful solo performances.
Special kudos to Workshop Theatre, Ghost River, Jubilations and Rosebud Theatre for finding ways to work within pandemic protocols to offer live experiences and to highlight the need, desire and demand for the communal experience we've been robbed of.