After cancelling their one-act play festival partway through in March due to COVID-19, the Gabriola Players are back and presenting live theatre in an all-new format.
From Sept. 17 to 19 the Gabriola Island-based theatre group presents two new pandemic-themed productions by local playwrights written for and broadcast on the online videoconferencing platform Zoom: All and Nothing by T.J. Radcliffe and Syd’s Cosmic Slump by Ray Appel. Radcliffe is also stage managing both productions.
“It’s like halfway to live theatre,” Radcliffe said of Zoom, “It’s like radio with pictures and it’s enabling us … to at least potentially reach a worldwide audience.”
Radcliffe’s play looks at how different people are experiencing the pandemic in different ways. He said it’s written in “classic sketch format,” meaning “everything gets worse and then there’s a twist.”
“I had a lot of friends in Vancouver, particularly in the performing arts community, who were being hit very hard, relatively speaking,” Radcliffe said. “So it was just an awareness of the differential impact of the pandemic on different groups and how that might play out between friends who were still in the city versus people who had moved to the Gulf Islands.”
Syd’s Cosmic Slump is Appel’s first play. Appel, a painter, found himself in a creative slump of his own when the pandemic struck, but became inspired to turn to play writing after speaking with a neighbour who worked in the film industry.
“While we were talking I just thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to try to write a play. I’m going to try to focus my energy into that,’ which ended up being amazing because I couldn’t paint and I didn’t want to. That was the other thing that really worried me,” he said. “So I started writing and it was just an amazing experience.”
In his play, Syd, a comedian, is asked to perform in a COVID-19 fundraiser for front-line workers but can’t come up with any material. That changes when he starts to reconnect with his father, who is living in a care home.
Appel said he was happy to see the play come together and was “blown away” by the actors’ interpretations of the characters. He said it gave him hope and motivation to continue writing.
“With a painting I can do a painting and it comes to life, so to speak, and then it hangs in somebody’s house,” Appel said. “This is different. It’s actually coming to life with people doing the dialogue and giving it life and it’s so different to me than just painting on canvas.”
WHAT’S ON … The Gabriola Players present All and Nothing and Syd’s Cosmic Slump on Zoom from Sept. 17 to 19 at 7 p.m. Tickets $10, available here.