Qualicum Beach’s ECHO Players, forced to shut down operations due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, is looking at ways to adapt.
The theatre is exploring ways to connect virtually with their audience.
“We are following the directives of our provincial health officer and carefully monitoring the changing situation,” said the group’s president, Mike Andrews. “Our board executive worked with MLA Michelle Stilwell’s office to gain clarity regarding various government statements. Theatre BC and ACTSAFE were also contacted to identify what we must do to make the theatre safe and comply with regulations. Until such a time, our theatre will remain closed in an effort to keep our members, volunteers and patrons safe.”
The group, which has been presenting live theatre in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area for 46 years, postponed its April show Yesteryear, and then made the difficult decision to keep the theatre closed until 2021.
However, play readings have started on Zoom with positive feedback, and the group is now looking into how they could perform plays online.
“Our members are incredibly resilient and creative,” said the club’s vice president, Jennifer Kelly. “Since our group is all about friendship and community, I wanted to find a way to still connect through theatre, and have all those people able to see each other’s smiling faces. That’s why I started play readings on Zoom.”
Ideas have started brewing for a series of one-act plays, a number of staged monologue readings, and a variety show, all directed and staged with physical distancing practices at the forefront.
While local theatre-goers can access online performances put on by the Met, the National Theatre and others, ECHO Players hopes that the opportunity to see local actors in their own community will get PQB locals excited.
“The thing about community theatre is you’ll always see a familiar face,” said Andrews. “That’s something we’re all missing right now… seeing people we know from our own communities and neighbourhoods. Through online performances, we’re hoping we can make that connection again… and we plan to do our best to reach out through the small screen to create as close an approximation as we can to our live theatre experience.”
When ECHO Players does reopen the Village Theatre in 2021 it will be for Yesteryear, by Canadian playwright Joanna McLelland Glass. Originally scheduled for last April, the cast and crew remain dedicated to bringing the show to the stage.
“We will get back onstage,” says Andrews. “In the meantime, we hope [Parksville Qualicum Beach Area] audiences who are missing ECHO Players will join us online. We’re still here for you.”
— NEWS staff, submitted