Monday, September 27, 2021

What do you miss about the performing arts?

By Dan White – Special to the Sydenham Current

I was reflecting on being involved in performing arts constantly since Grade 9 music class and, news flash, that was back when you had to get up off the couch and walk across the room to select one of the handful of stations available on television, when 8 track audio tapes were cool.

I was looking at Stratford Festival’s website and the shows that have opened as of July 15.

I was pining for the days of full houses and crowded streets after performances.

As I scanned the shows, I noted that they are mostly adaptations, cabarets, and original plays, predominantly looking at the pandemic and its affect on life, optimism and values.

These are valuable and important topics, and frankly they are both what quality theatre should do and does well.

Good theatre holds a mirror up to society and shows us who we truly are, or can be.

Great theatre is innovative and all meaningful theatre is resilient.

Stratford has all of those elements.

The season will be much shorter (six or seven weeks compared to the usual six months), most of the venues are canopies covering stages built outside the actual venues and with significantly reduced capacity.

The presentations look to take risks in recreating standard stories (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), telling important stories (Rez Sisters) and reimagining stories most of us know (Romeo and Juliet).

R + J is the adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic love story.

Stratford’s synopsis is: “They say that love is blind – and with blindness comes the freedom to open the mind’s eye to a world of limitless possibility. Likewise, the challenge of staging the world’s most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet, in a time of physical distancing brings with it the opportunity to explore modes of theatrical presentation that are both unexpectedly novel and as old as the art of storytelling itself.

Intended for blind, low-vision and sighted audiences alike, this radically reimagined version of Shakespeare’s beloved romantic tragedy invites you into an up-to-the-minute modern world of sound and music, a world that challenges the identities we construct when we use only our eyes, a world in which the entrenched hostilities of an older generation are challenged by the passions of young people who only want to love.

R+J is accessible to blind and low-vision audiences through an integrated audio description.”

That is very cool.

This show embraces the challenges of the pandemic and opens theatre to exploring how we often see very little when all we do is look.

I could continue on about how I miss shows, not just in Stratford, Niagara-On-The-Lake or other large venues but here in Chatham and area as well.

But as I started, I was drawn away by something.

The sound of Joni singing wafted upstairs as she joyously prepares a plethora of Lebanese foods and other favourites in anticipation of a visit from our niece.

Joni will tell you she is not a great singer, but that is simply her humility.

She has a beautiful voice and as I stopped pecking at the keyboard I wandered, ever so quietly, to the top of the stairs where I sat and let her joy drift up the stairs.

I began to contemplate what arts experiences fill me with contentment over the past 16 or 17 months.

Our quintet has been able to practice, albeit sporadically, throughout this pandemic.

Last summer we were inspired to create videos since we couldn’t do live performances.

I started a YouTube channel. (I’m not an “influencer”, I have 41 subscribers.)

I worked closely with Dave Babbitt on all of our videos last year and it inspired me to acquire the program and begin creating videos myself.

If things had continued as they were it is unlikely that we would have made the videos and they have been a source of a great deal of fun and we are proud of them.

With Dave’s assistance, I have learned the program adequately and have made a few of my own videos.

Now that summer is upon us again, we are planning a new series of videos.

Our initial offering this summer will be a departure from last years light comedic works, but we hope it will be powerful and speak to people.

I have started learning a program to create animation… but it is a steep learning curve and it may need to wait until fall for me to reinvest time in it.

This column is a source of enjoyment.

Sure, I wonder if anyone reads it, I stress about meeting the Friday morning deadline… but in the end, I enjoy creating it.

And that little songbird downstairs smiles when I ask her to be my sounding board.

Maybe that is enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I will be happy to sit in a theatre and hang on every word of a gifted story teller again.

But, this isn’t purgatory.
Like most things in life for us mere mortals, we get out what we put in.

Perhaps life is really about more than our outlook; maybe life is about closing our eyes and listening to the songbird.

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