REMOTE THEATER with THEATER CALGARY
Following the announcement by Alberta premiere Jason Kenney ending all performance practices for young people and adults, the idea of live theater in Calgary seems to be drifting further and further away. However, companies are constantly creating new ways to engage with their audiences and artists. Workshops and auditions are moving towards a digital platform and productions are made available in streaming. As the world turns, the creators of Calgary are doing what they do best in these trying times.
This week, Stafford Arima and Maya Choldin of Theater Calgary spoke about how their company is leading the way for emerging artists in the new digital age of theater.
Stafford Arima – Artistic Director, Theater Calgary “height =” 180 “src =” https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2105324/Stafford%20Arima.jpg “align =” left “width =” 180 “/> Toronto -born Stafford Arima made headlines in 2015 when his making of “Allegiance” made him the first Asian Canadian to direct a Broadway musical. Arima was also nominated for a 2004 Olivier Award for directing the “Ragtime” West End premiere. He has been artistic director of Theater Calgary since taking office in 2017, directing some of Calgary’s favorite musicals such as’ Billy Elliot: The Musical ‘,’ The Secret Garden ‘and’ Mary and Max – A New Musical ”.
Maya choldin became Managing Director of Theater Calgary in September 2020 after six seasons as Managing Director of the Pig Iron Theater Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Choldin returned home to Alberta after spending time in the United States with the Pennsylvania Ballet (as General Manager), the Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason University, the Kimmel Center, Opera Philadelphia, the Mann Center and FringeArts.
“Our last in-person performance was the second preview performance of Josh Harmon’s ‘Admissions’ on Wednesday March 11, 2020.” Arima told me. “We would be officially canceling the show (and the rest of our season) on March 13.” The artistic director explained the emotions that surrounded the team to make such a difficult decision.
“I remember, like it was yesterday, the look of shock, disappointment, sadness and confusion in each person’s eyes. It really choked us all.”
As Calgary’s oldest professional theater company (founded 1968), it was an odd sight to see the Max Bell Theater – TC’s home for 35 years – still and empty.
“At the end of the day, no show on our stage means no income.” Choldin told me. “Unfortunately, this has resulted in a difficult downsizing of a number of our key employees.”
Arima added: “While we were devastated for the artists who no longer had a play to work on, our administrative staff were equally touched … With everyone moving to work from home, our group management contacted staff a few times. a week … Basically, [we] did everything to keep the doors of the theater open in the face of all the uncertainty. “
With the uncertainty of projects and performances, came a uncertainty on how to keep those theater doors open. “Fortunately, a large percentage of our ticket holders donated the cost of their unused tickets to us.” Choldin said. “This generosity was extremely important and supported us, and allowed us to look to what we could focus on with a move to the Internet.”
Theater Calgary (which is known for its pan-Canadian collaboration and interpretations of old and new plays and musicals) entered the digital scene quite quickly after the in-person performances ended.
“Last spring Stafford and the team created ‘tcTakeout’, short videos submitted by our artist family in Calgary, across Canada and the United States.” Choldin explained that Theater Calgary has been posting these short videos on its social media channels since April 2020 – the 50th episode in April 2021 – which featured artists singing songs, telling stories, dancing, or showing off their particular skills. “Being able to reach out to our artists and give them the opportunity to present themselves in the aforementioned manner was a way to keep their creativity alive, but also to remind our audiences that these artists are deeply affected by the pandemic.”
In addition to organizing tcTakeout, Arima was also looking to the future. Specifically: how to take their big productions and bring them home for their audiences to enjoy. Knowing that Shakespeare by the Bow was scheduled for June (2020), I had a conversation with Haysam Kadri (who directed and adapted ‘Romeo & Juliet’) and asked him if he would drop the current adaptation and rethink it. . for a Zoom platform.
“The next offer we shared was ‘A Christmas Carol.’ I asked Geoffrey Simon Brown if he would do a re-adaptation of his 2019 adaptation for a cast of three. I wanted to make a filmed version of Carol unlike any previous production that had been seen on stage at Theater Calgary, where the worlds of film and theater (‘filmatre’) collided to create a new experience of classic Dickensian history. “
Shakespeare by the Bow 2021 (auditions end Sunday, May 9, 2021) is set to begin performances in July 2021 at various locations outside the city. Additionally, Theater Calgary will host Broadway Dreams, a week-long masterclass – organized virtually – with lessons from Rob McClure, Tyler Hanes, Ari Groover, Sherry Dayton and more, from July 19-23, 2021.
The artistic director admitted that there was certainly a learning curve involved as the company moved from stage to stage for the first time in Theater Calgary’s history. “Everything to bring ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ to life was new and unexpected. However, it was amazing to see how our production and art departments enthusiastically jumped into this new medium with a fearlessness that was inspiring. “
As always, finding a silver lining was essential. “With ‘A Christmas Carol’, Theater Calgary collaborated with Aaron Bernakevitch’s company, 4K Film Production, and The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions were partners on “Romeo and Juliet”. It was so exciting to work with these local businesses during this difficult time. Beautiful new relationships have emerged from this period of conflict. It’s a story of an understudy! “
While Theater Calgary is still hoping for a return to the stage in the fall of 2021, Choldin said their move into the digital world has definitely affected the company’s vision for the scale of the performing arts.
“What surprised and impressed me with ‘A Christmas Carol’ was our ability to reach audiences outside of Calgary … Going online we ended up with viewers from 21 different countries … it’s amazing! The next question for us is how to engage these audiences in our future shows? Is it even possible? What can we do to cultivate these new Theater Calgary audiences who have only seen us online? “
While the future of Theater Calgary – and all of the theaters in the city – is still fairly unknown, it is clear that they are taking full advantage of the opportunity to bring the theater to as many people as possible.
“Covid has not been the friend of Theater Calgary and thousands of other arts organizations and businesses around the world.” Arima concluded. “However, this time of difficulty requires all of us to improvise, rethink, question our method and strategies, and inevitably evolve. I have no doubts that Theater Calgary will emerge from this pandemic stronger, humiliated and excited. future.”
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