As I write this, the company at Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Company is in production rehearsals for the first time in almost two years. Our 2020 season was completely postponed due to Covid-19, and the third wave earlier in 2021 nearly wiped out this year’s 30th anniversary season before we even started work. But only weeks ago, a small window opened in the pandemic, and we were able to start rehearsals in the hopes that, by the time we got to mid-July, live performance for an audience would be possible. We took a calculated risk, and so far, it seems to have been the right choice.
It was an emotional time for a group of theatre artists to gather. Gathering itself was a strange experience at first—awkward, uncertain exchanges suffused with gratitude and worry, many of us having been disappointed too many times to fully embrace the idea that we were really going to make it to an opening night. We shared with each other how we were feeling about returning to rehearsals, and we began to rehearse our productions of First Flight, Schoolhouse, and Macbeth in earnest.
We’re almost halfway to opening night, and some things, I think, are becoming clear:
The pandemic, for many of us, has changed things forever, both inside and outside our theatre. As artists who are committed to reflecting the reality of our audience’s lives in some tangible way, we cannot remain unchanged by the upheaval of the last 15 months. Priorities have changed. Our community has changed.
There is a renewed focus on live performance and what it means to our community. While many in pre-pandemic Nova Scotia likely took the fact that many live performances were available on any given night of the year- in this moment it seems to be the opposite situation. Theatre-goers have been reading pandemic tea-leaves for many months, looking for signs that their favourite theatre company will finally open their doors. Will this realization that congregating for live performance is essential, and to be cherished, last? Will we take this new feeling forward into the post pandemic era, supporting the arts with an increased commitment and gratitude for the role they played during the darkest days of Covid-19?
How will people feel when, finally, they do witness a performance for the first time in so many months? This is one of the things I am most eager to learn- both for myself and for our audiences. Will people be more moved by the act of congregation than by the play? Will people’s engagement be different? Will they demand more from live performance than they did before?
So many questions.
As I walk through the halls of the Ross Creek Centre and peek in studios, there is an abundance of excitement and joy. Musical instruments and masks and puppets are being created and tested. Music is being played and sung. Rehearsal halls are full of performers and crew. Fields are being mowed and temporarily turned into stages. All while the Centre prepares for the return of overnight arts camps and professional gallery shows. It’s 179 acres of re-emerging creativity, and it is a delight to be in the middle of it.
We’re coming back. I hope, in coming back, that we are doing it carefully, thoughtfully, and with a renewed appreciation for the opportunity that we have before us. And I hope that lasts.
I would like to invite you to come the Ross Creek Centre this summer and help us celebrate the return of live theatre. Let’s answer our questions together.
Photo of First Flight courtesy of Ken Schwartz.