A night of theatre used to mean gathering at Theatre Erindale and filling the room with laughter and tears. But with Covid-19 restrictions, the new theatre experience means live streaming on Zoom with a bag of microwaved popcorn.

Zoom classes at UTM have hindered the Theatre and Drama Studies (TDS) students’ ability to rehearse with classmates, learn group choreography, and express their creativity through live performances. I asked two third-year students — Jacob Dowdall and Daniella Khayutin — and one fourth-year student — Michael Karrangus — to share their concerns about the upcoming school year.

“All our classes are scheduled for online synchronous delivery, including our rehearsals,” said Karrangus. “The goal is to have classes delivered in-person for the winter semester, but there’s always the possibility they’ll still be delivered online.”

“Personally, I don’t mind,” Dowdall said when asked to share his feelings about online class delivery. “I don’t think it’s ideal, but this could be our future for a while, and I’m open to learn and experiment with it.”

Some students are experimenting with camera angles, special effects, and skillful editing to help bring the theatre experience online.

“Jacob and I had the privilege of working virtually with the Shaw Festival over the summer,” shared Khayutin. “We created a scene we performed with the use of multiple camera angles and laptops in different locations. It was really fun and interesting to be part of the ‘Covid Theatre World.’ It’s amazing to see the beautiful performances that are still being created during these times, even if it’s virtual.”

Regular attendees will be disappointed to find out that Theatre Erindale has postponed in-person shows for the fall semester.

“Every show has been pushed back to the second term in hopes of physically preparing and performing them in-person,” said Dowdall.

“The Sheridan faculty is determined to perform winter shows in-person,” continued Karrangus, “whether it be through social distancing or a recording of the live performance.”

Although the TDS cancelled in-person shows for the Fall semester, students aren’t letting remote delivery deter their creative expression. 

“We’ll be doing an online show at the end of the Fall semester that we’re creating ourselves as a class,” said Khayutin. “Our faculty scheduled the classes that are more useful to do in person, such as stage combat, to be in the winter semester. This leaves us room for more personal creative work for the Fall semester as we prepare to create our devised creative piece as a class. The online performance will be in November.”

While TDS students continue to keep theatre alive through virtual performances, many of them worry about unemployment upon graduation, as Covid-19 restrictions continue to limit live theatre performances.

“It’s going to be hard for theatre to bounce back,” stated Karrangus, “especially when a gathering of individuals is so important to the life of theatre. We’ll be graduating into an uneven job market and getting our foot in the door as actors will be harder.”

As COVID-19 restrictions hit the theatre industry more severely than others, preserving theatre has never been more important.

“Keeping theatre alive is important, but I also think it’s important to keep all art alive during the pandemic. Most of us have been using art, music, and TV to get through quarantine and the pandemic,” concluded Karrangus. “Especially during the online age, people are craving art, and we need to [help] keep art evolving. It’s more important now than ever.”

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