Seventy artists from across Canada have been busy this past week. While that might seem like an oxymoron given the state of the world right now, these artists have been working in isolation during the global pandemic to write, direct and perform 19 new original scripts.
The week culminates with a video compilation of artists reading the works around the theme of “connection” on the Halifax indie theatre company The Villains Theatre website on Saturday, March 21, beginning at 7:00 pm Atlantic time.
While many of the participating artists are based in Nova Scotia, organizers say they also have contributors from British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, The Northwest Territories, Alberta, Quebec, Australia, and artists in transit returning from Germany and Utah.
With playwrights given three days to submit scripts based on the theme, followed by a call out to interested performers and directors, the project has come together quickly. On March 19, teams were assigned plays with each group coming up with their plans on how they would work together while keeping in isolation.
Virtual shows like this are quickly becoming the new normal for many in the arts community. “This is one of many that will spring up over the coming weeks, for artists who have been impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic to get together and create,” says organizer Colleen MacIsaac.
Among the participating artists is Dartmouth-based director Rebecca Wolfe who joined the project from a desire to maintain a sense of community and normalcy during these turbulent times. “I felt myself turning inward and becoming lethargic at the beginning of this week with all the news circling and having multiple contracts cancelled,” she says.
Wolfe is at the helm of Montreal-based playwright Brandon Lorimer’s Lovely, Lonesome, Limbo, or Perdita, the story of someone waking up in an unknown world not knowing who or where they are, and then is asked to remember and define the space around them. “It is a show about being lost, memory of better times and the psyche, with a guest appearance from consumerism,” explains Wolfe.
Like all of the teams involved in Isolate Nights, Wolfe has been working with a geographically diverse group scattered across the country. From Halifax to Toronto, it also includes two performers who were in-transit back to Canada from the United States and another who has just returned from Italy.
Working with a remote team has not been without its challenges. In addition to coordinating time differences, troubleshooting bad wifi and sound feedback, Wolfe also needed to learn some new technologies. “I am not a technology genius, so filming our Zoom required me to learn a new skill. It was difficult because it was a new task, but well worth it in the end,” she says.
Despite the challenges, Wolfe says it has all been worth it and looking forward to sharing it with an audience online. “Physical distance is no longer an issue because we are all physically distant from each other regardless,” she says. “You should tune into Isolate Nights because of the numerous talented people involved and the spark of joy Villains is providing in this time of uncertainty. Plus, what else do you have going on this Saturday night?”
Viewers will be able to donate during the virtual show to support the many artists involved who have already lost work due to the pandemic. One hundred percent of the donations will go directly to the artists.
Isolate Nights will stream on March 21 beginning at 7:00 pm Atlantic time on The Villains Theatre website at villainstheatre.com.