The National Arts Centre is working with theatre companies across Canada to bring the performing arts to the public square.
The Grand Acts of Theatre initiative, announced on Thursday, will see large-scale outdoor works staged in 11 communities from coast to coast as the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered live venues.
NAC English Theatre artistic director Jillian Keiley hopes the project will help prop up Canada’s struggling theatre sector while appealing to a whole new audience.
“We have the opportunity to reach a public who might not even enter a theatre,” Keiley said in a recent phone interview.
“Maybe this is part of how people might think of theatre from now on.”
Keiley partnered with Vancouver theatremaker Sherry Yoon to find companies up for the creative challenge of putting on a show that could weather the natural elements and COVID-19 constraints.
The results outperformed Keiley’s expectations.
Audiences in Barrie, Ont., will be invited to a wedding celebration attended by well-dressed guests in inflatable plastic orbs in ”Something Bubbled, Something Blue” from Talk Is Free Theatre in association with Outside the March.
Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop will host a rap battle between a Black teenager and the white police officer who shot him in “Black and Blue Matters.”
Meanwhile, Regina theatre Curtain Razors will set a series of site-specific vignettes across the prairie landscape to explore Indigenous-settler relations in “Trespassers Waltz.”
In “Continuance: Yonkwa’nikonhrakontáhkwen — our consciousness continues unchanged,” the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre in Six Nations, Ont., will use 3D mapping to celebrate Indigenous resilience through the dark history of the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
Keiley said all performances will comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, allowing audiences to enjoy the show from a safe distance.
Still, she believes the immersive pieces will have a lasting impact through the power of live performance to bring people together.
“I’m hoping 10 years from now, people will say, ‘Do you remember the pandemic?’ And … this becomes part of the memory of this very unusual time.”
The performances will take place in September and October. They will also be filmed and shared online.
More information about the schedule can be found at https://nac-cna.ca/en/englishtheatre/packages/grand-acts-of-theatre.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2020.