By Samara Caplan and Laura Gauthier. Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever). Follow @bffs613 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
It’s been just over six months since theatres in Ottawa and around the globe shut down. For theatre nerds like us, going from weekly shows to none at all was quite a bit of culture shock. But right away, we saw communities in New York, London, Toronto, and even here in Ottawa, come together not only to support those of us in theatre withdrawal, but also those in the theatre community who are out of jobs and who had lost an artistic space and an income.
Members of the Ottawa theatre community have come together to produce a socially distanced virtual play called Behind the Beyond, available now for free on YouTube. Originally written by Canadian author Stephen Leacock, this isn’t the show’s first time in the Ottawa scene – most recently it was performed at the Ottawa Little Theatre in the 2012/2013 season. But not quite like this.
Along with the struggle of social distancing comes opportunity. The team for Behind the Beyond came together to rehearse and perform the play within social distancing restrictions. Zoom was used for the production and, since the internet can be unreliable for live streaming, recording and putting the show together seamlessly came out as the best option.
A story filled with a comedy of errors, Behind the Beyond is a play within a play. Opening on the narrator, played by Paul Williamson, the show goes on to describe the theatre, the audience, the acting and staging, while the plot pokes fun at the typical 19th-century problem plays.
Adapted for this format and directed by Brian Cano, this play was the perfect selection for a Zoom-based production, with its smaller cast and minimal staging requirements. Everything felt smooth and it was easy to follow along. They added digital backgrounds to accompany their period costumes and it all worked quite seamlessly. Most of the virtual plays we’ve seen are actors sitting in their apartments and the background bookcase is often distracting from their words, but this one feels more immersive, even online. It may not have been quite the same as sitting in a theatre seeing a production on stage, but it was a taste of what we have all been missing.
Though we don’t know when it will be safe enough for theatres to open up again in the way we’re used to, it’s productions like this that keep us all connected to each other and to the theatre community. As they say, the show must go on.