Calgary

The show must go on — albeit online — for Calgary theatre group's Blue Light Festival

A local theatre company is proving that even during the COVID-19 quarantine, the show can go on.

Festival's 10 different pieces to unfold over broad spectrum of social media

Verb Theatre's Blue Light Festival starts on April 1. It's an experimental theatre project. (Verb Theatre)

A local theatre company is proving that even during the COVID-19 quarantine, the show can go on.

Verb Theatre will debut the Blue Light Festival on April 1 — an experimental theatre project that will be performed across social media platforms including Instagram Live, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Docs and Twitter, until the curtain falls in early May.

Festival director Jamie Dunsdon said on the Tuesday edition of The Homestretch that the project was actually  conceptualized about a year ago, and well before the COVID-19 outbreak shuttered theatres across the city on March 13.

"It had nothing to do with COVID-19 when it started," Dunsdon said.

"We wanted to just extend the conversation that we were having on stage with two plays we were doing into the social media sphere — but then, we had to cancel the plays. So now we've got the social media element here, alive and well."

The timing of the festival, Dunsdon said, is both fortunate and unfortunate. With theatres closed across North America, artists, performers and stage managers are out of work. 

The Blue Light Festival has allowed some relief, even if it is bittersweet.

"This is a great way to keep employing some artists during this difficult time, and to try something experimental, and a little bit ridiculous, that we've never tried before," Dunsdon said.

There are 10 different pieces in the festival, and they will unfold over a broad spectrum of social media platforms, Dunsdon said.

Three-dimensional stories

For the artists involved in the project, it has been a way to rediscover both theatre and the utility of social media.

Playwright and performer Michaela Jeffery created a Twitter play called "Radiant, AB" for the festival.

It follows three young people as they figure out what it means to leave the town you grew up in. Jeffery said the medium completely changed the experience of creating art and theatre.

"In a play context, you have your one moment in time, you put on your play, your audience comes, they meet you in the theatre, they sit down, they experience the story," Jeffery said.

"Whereas with a Twitter play that is unfolding over weeks, with a culminating event on April 11, you can be a part of it the whole way long. And so, to me, that's a whole different kind of communion as theatre-makers and theatre-goers."

The result, she said, is storytelling that is three dimensional.

"We are not sharing physical space, but we are sharing time and space. We are taking a moment to participate in a story all together, so for me, as a storyteller ... the challenge and the opportunity all in one is to think about how to make maximum use of that," Jeffery said.

The Blue Light Festival is free to the public, and can be accessed at verbtheatre.com.

With files from The Homestretch

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