Last month Western Edge Theatre made its first foray into virtual performance and now the local theatre company is preparing for an encore.
On June 11 Western Edge staged Sandpiper Serenade, a one-act play by local playwright Bill Miner, via the online videoconferencing platform Zoom. The production was performed by four actors from their own homes using costumes, props, sound effects and virtual backgrounds.
Miner said more than 90 people tuned in to the broadcast – “I forced every relative of my wife and myself to watch it,” he joked – and feedback was positive.
“I think people enjoyed the twists of the plot itself and they loved the southern accents and the acting and I think they were pleasantly surprised and engaged by the medium itself,” Miner said.
He said there was a lot to learn from that first performance and those lessons will be heeded on July 30 when Western Edge presents another one of Miner’s plays, “an homage to the gothic thrillers of the ’40s” called The Shadow World.
The play follows a brother and sister from Toronto who lose all their wealth and out of desperation seek the aid of a reclusive uncle who was once the world’s leading medium. The siblings try to convince their uncle to once again perform a seance, knowing that his last attempt to commune with the dead ended in catastrophe and is the reason he’s been living in seclusion on a Gulf Island for the past 20 years.
The Shadow World stars Nanaimo actors Randy Humchitt, Rick Meyers, Erik Tully and Diane Verhiel. Like Sandpiper Serenade, it was originally written as a radio play.
“Ironically, given this will be the third medium that I’ll have produced this one-act – I did it live and went into the studio and I produced a podcast of it – I feel that with the cast I’ve got and what we are utilizing from the Zoom medium, I think this is the best medium for the play,” Miner said.
Miner is co-directing the play with Western Edge artistic director Brian March, who appeared in the Zoom production of Sandpiper Serenade. March said it was “still basically what we do on-stage,” only not face-to-face.
He said many actors haven’t had the opportunity to perform live for an audience lately and taking part in the Zoom shows is a way to get those feelings back.
“I found, because I was acting in the first one, that you get some of that same pre-show excitement. Butterflies before it starts,” March said. “And I think that’s one of the things performers miss is that moment before you step onto the stage and face the audience.”
WHAT’S ON … Western Edge Theatre presents The Shadow World by Bill Miner on Thursday, July 30 at 7 p.m. on the Western Edge YouTube Channel. The recording will be available after the show.