Solving the Problem of Pandemic Performance with Digital Dramas

The Canadian theatre industry has been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing theatres to close their doors indefinitely and putting thousands of performers, producers and technical staff out of work. The University of Windsor’s University Players, in partnership with Toronto-based theatre company Outside the March, have created a unique solution to the problem. Under a federal grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Professor Michelle Macarthur hopes to discover a new genre of live digital performance. Her team will be tasked with analysis of the creative process and audience experience.

The presentation promises a host of prestigious Canadian talent. Playwrights David Yee, Elena “Eli” Belyea, Karen Hines, and Marcus Youssef have been commissioned to create four new works for the project, and directors Sébastien Heins, Kim McLeod and Griffin McInnes will direct students in these new works, along with Outside the March’s Artistic Director and Creative Curator on the project, Mitchell Cushman. Each show in the series reflects the historic events we are experiencing right now. The shows are performed live in short, fast-paced double-bill Zoom webinars each night, with a different pair of shows being presented each weekend. Each pair of shows will run no more than an hour and a half.

The series opens with good white men, a new show from David Yee, whose play lady in the red dress won a Governor General’s award in 2015. The show features four young white men, each reflecting on the Black Lives Matter movement as they engage with each other using a complicated series of the latest technology platforms.

Karen Hines’ work The River of Forgetfulness ends the evening, with a brilliantly horrific take on the effect the pandemic has had on the lives of our students and performers. Bizarre and entertaining, this show promises to push the boundaries of reality and digital performance.

“The Stream You Step In” will be performed over two weekends November 5-8 and 19-22 at 8pm via Zoom. Tickets to each double-feature performance are $20 can be purchased through the online box office. The shows are presented in Zoom’s Webinar format. Patrons are required to register in advance to receive a unique link to the show, and must be purchased before 3pm on the day of the performance.

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