Nfld. & Labrador

If a crowd can't go to a theatre, the theatre comes to them: Taking plays to roaming cars

Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland's latest production, The Other Side of This, takes audience members on a treasure hunt.

7 stories, 7 locations, 7 writers and all you need is a car

Chris Brookes, left, and Robert Chafe, along with producer Patrick Foran, are the creators of The Other Side of This, a show that takes place in locations around St. John's. (Mike Moore/CBC)

What if you could get in your car and go to seven different plays, at seven different locations, all in 90 minutes and without ever having to step outside of your vehicle?

Now you can.

Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland's latest production, The Other Side of This, takes audience members on a treasure hunt of sorts — with stops along the way — through parts of downtown St. John's.

"It's a really interesting piece for us. I'm really excited to see what people think of it. It really was born out of, not only necessity with the COVID thing.… The monologues aren't really about COVID or about quarantine, but I don't think they're monologues that would have been written any other time," said Artistic Fraud director and playwright Robert Chafe. 

"They really are born out of a collective sense of where we are right now and the challenges of connecting individually."

The production is set against seven different backdrops in seven parts of the city, each with their own story. Audience members receive maps upon purchasing a ticket and set out on the adventure, tuning in to dedicated FM transmissions set up at each location to listen to the stories come through their car stereos. 

There are no live actors, but individual monologues written by Robert Chafe, Michael Crummey, Prajwala Dixit, Nomi Fizzle, Santiago Guzman, Elizabeth Hicks and Berni Stapleton tell the tales with voice acting to accompany them.

And, in the name of COVID-19 and public health orders, start times for the production each night are staggered, with locations kept secret until the maps are released to cut down on mass gatherings in the varying locations.

The Other Side of This is part tour, part theatre, part drive-in. (Submitted by Cameron Gill)

"We formulated a way of [arranging] start times and routes for the cars that actually cuts down and limits the amount of cars at each site. Part of that was consideration to parking lots themselves, and consideration of traffic flow," said Chafe.

"[But] we talked a lot about what the experience of the show would be. I thought it was such a lovely experience to go 'this is where we're going on the map,' to try to find the place, and to have a small signifier in the space so that you're in the right space, and then there's a discrete FM station at that space and you have to retune each time you get there. The treasure hunt feel."

Bringing it all together

Each location was selected ahead of time, where each writer then formulated their own story, each as varied as the sites themselves.

Chris Brookes, known for making radio documentaries and producing similar content in his work as a producer with Battery Radio — an independent company that creates broadcast documentaries and sound design — signed on to produce the sound for The Other Side of This.

"I remember years ago, you'd be driving through a subdivision and sometimes you would see this sign for a real estate agent and it would say 'tune to such-and-such on your radio,'" Brookes said. 

"So then I thought, 'FM transmitters, why can't we do that?'"

The Other Side of This opens Oct. 7. (Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland/Facebook)

Both Brookes and Chafe said theatre companies are among some of the worst-hit businesses amid the pandemic.

With rules and regulations for gatherings in indoor spaces, and with colder months coming on quickly, getting creative was the only option to save a year in which many performances were cancelled. The design of The Other Side of This allows crowds to gather, distantly and separately, to enjoy a show which couldn't happen otherwise.

Brookes said the new production feels like a retro drive-in movie, on top of what will be a miniature tour of the city and a throwback to radio theatre. 

"You're there in your car with maybe some other people, maybe not, there's cars all around you, so you really are in [an] audience," he said.

"We're all partaking in the same experience, except within our own bubbles, and yet we're together." 

Opening night for The Other Side of This is Oct. 7, and for those without access to a vehicle, Chafe said Artistic Fraud is working on an online version of the show.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Mike Moore


Mike Moore is a journalist who works with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's. He can be reached by email at


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