As COVID-19 has closed live theaters this month, expect more live, audio and outdoor shows – at least for the first part of the year
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has halted the return of live performances in person – at least for the next month or so. While many theater, dance, and comedy companies have live shows scheduled afterwards, it’s best to check with them first to see if they continue.
In the meantime, here are some milestone trends to look forward to in another uncertain year.
More live broadcasts
Of course, screen fatigue is one thing. But many companies have found that live performances add a spark of excitement to the proceedings. And some are taking interactivity to exciting new places.
The Complex at Next Stage takes interactivity to a new level
Half of Fringe’s 10 shows Next step festival offers (Jan. 19-30) are digital this year – and, as clarified earlier this week, many live shows will now feature some sort of digital version. One of the most intriguing is that of Chantal Forde The complex, an immersive online experience that takes place in a dystopian future in which participants work together to select the future leader of the company. You can choose to be part of the Community (i.e. interacting with actors and other viewers) or the Chamber (seeing a live broadcast and participating – or not – in a chat window. and participate in surveys). The Community uses Gather (no need to have a Gather account), while the Chamber uses Zoom (don’t worry: your camera and microphone will be disabled). fringetoronto.com
Factory theater Year of the rat (February 24 to March 5) is a series of mono-dramas about our connection to the places of our homes – something that we have all obviously considered in the past 21 months. Bitter Augusto, Charlotte corbeil coleman, Rosa Laborde and Anita majumdar perform their own works, each in a different part of their own home, live each night. theatreusine.ca
And few companies have ventured into video streaming like Bad Dog Theater Company, which regularly presents live improvised comedies with Bad Dog Comedy TV. There is nothing quite like watching a show on YouTube in real time, but most shows are then uploaded so you can watch and laugh later. baddogtheatre.com
We are all ears
Factory presents a second season of You can’t get there from here, by commissioning five other sound theatrical works that take place in and around familiar Toronto landmarks and neighborhoods. This year’s playwrights are Marjorie Chan, Ins Choi, Amy Lee Lavoie and Omari Newton, Kat Sandler and Guillermo Verdecchia. theatreusine.ca
Also back this year, Outside the March has been a huge success. The ministry of worldly mysteries, in which intrepid investigators take any mystery you might have and solve it for you over the course of an hour-long phone call. You can book at any time that suits you. Right now, the ministry is taking unresolved cases from January 10 to 31, but the February dates are expected to open soon. mystÃ¨resmondains.com
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is expected to bring some magic to the theater this spring.
Harry Potter for a cursed year
Will a little magic solve the woes of the theater industry? Mirvish Productions hopes so. After permanently shutting down its production of Come From Away and canceling Tom Stoppard’s North American premiere of Leopoldstadt, the company is relying heavily on its gigantic show. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The all-Canadian cast of this sequel to JK Rowling’s beloved series includes Trevor White, Sarah Afful, Gregory Perst, Trish lindstrom, Steven sutcliffe and Sara farb and Fiona reid, both of which were part of the Broadway ensemble. Performances begin May 31 at the Ed Mirvish Theater, giving the province more than five months to prepare for the pandemic. mirvish.com
If the virus is still rampant throughout winter and spring, expect plenty of other companies to put on outdoor shows. Provincial restrictions on rehearsals last year prevented many businesses from enjoying outdoor art. But don’t be surprised if more and more street performances, parks, and pop-up shows are taking over the city. Musical Stage Company brings back its Musical moments series of programs based on movement and song taking place in outdoor spaces. Even though indoor theater is allowed, it’s a great way to see corners of the city during the warmer months. Compagniestagemusical.com
As the pandemic rages on and arts businesses lose their venues (Tapestry Opera and Nightwood Theater leases are not renewed in the Distillery District in 2022), the entire industry will be at risk. One more year of uncertainty could decimate the scene. More publicized fundraising and activism around public funding for the arts could help businesses survive.