“If we can’t have a physical, shared-energy space how do we transfer that?” asks Antoinette O’Keefe.
“What is there outside of that tangible space that you feel when the lights go down and the curtain comes up—what else is comparable to that; what else is different from that? And…is that something that you can translate?”
These are some of the questions that Antoinette and other members of the King’s Theatrical Society (KTS) have been asking themselves since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
With so many events and experiences that give shape to people’s lives cancelled or moved online, those working in live performance have faced steep challenges to keep audiences—and themselves—engaged. In response to these challenges, the KTS has begun to hold online workshops for students. Collectively titled “The Show Will Go On!” many are hosted by KTS/King’s alumni, with the next event scheduled for Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m.
Asked how they developed the series, Antoinette explained that the KTS executive and their collaborators focused on topics they anticipate being the most useful to people while social distancing remains in place. The first workshop, hosted by Daniel Halpern, BA(Hons)’20, explored writing.
“It was really wonderful,” Antoinette says. “We had a very recent KTS alum … do a writing workshop—creative writing—so writing for theatre and particularly character development…. It was very much a starting-off point where people could do whatever they felt like, work on whatever they wanted to. Whether they keep on going with it is completely up to them, but it was really just a little kick-starter, and a chance for people to see other people’s process—what they’re doing, and what they’re up to.”
Antoinette says the KTS hopes to act as a structure that can help students develop their own projects until live performances can safely resume. They also note the possibility that some projects may take shape before that time comes. Friday’s workshop, hosted by Karen Gross, BA(Hons)’10, “Producing in a Pandemic,” has been conceived with that possibility in mind.
“We talked a little bit about what students would be interested in—this is the idea that they came up with, and it is extremely topical.
“Right now there definitely is a lot of want, and people [who are] feeling like ‘I miss theatre, I want to make art.’ But then with the pandemic it really is just [about] the logistics of putting it together: how’s that going to look? What kind of format is not going to diminish the play, or get in the way? How can the format actually help us?”
“I think that Karen’s going to talk a little bit about that, and the different options—really pushing the boundaries … This is a different way—going online and playing with more aspects, particularly audio which I think is a really fun medium.”
They note that collaboration and the sharing of ideas, even when it happens online, brings an energy all its own.
“Even if you can’t get together in person, you can still act with somebody, or you can still be working collaboratively, creatively together with somebody … With theatre and music … it’s a community effort and to be able to get some of that back is really exciting.”
There is one more workshop planned in addition to Friday’s production-themed event. But for now the topic and the host are being kept secret.
“We actually have one coming up that’s our little last surprise workshop. It’ll be with a prof from Dal and we’re going to put the announcement up, but it definitely will be much more of a playful thing. I’m very excited for this workshop.”
It might not be the season the KTS would have imagined at this time last year, but for its members that’s no reason to dwell on what could have been.
“There definitely are things that I miss,” Antoinette says, “but at the end of the day it’s not gone forever so I don’t want to mourn something that’s going to come back. Why not have fun with it?”
“The Show Will Go On: Producing in a Pandemic” will be held Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m. AST. Participation is $5. Register on Eventbrite.