By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
True, you can’t show up for a live in-person experience at the theatre. But Edmonton’s largest theatre company invites you to share the work of our impressive talent pool of local artists anyway — in your own home.
The Citadel’s bright idea is a timely adaptation of their House comedy, cabaret and concert series introduced last season and cut short in these challenging, isolating times. This very day the Citadel launches its new Stuck-In-The-House Series.
Artistic director Daryl Cloran, stuck in his own house at present, explains. “We’re inviting Edmonton artists to send us videos (or live-streams) of their performances, whether they be excerpts of shows that got cancelled, or other pieces of art, songs, music, comedy, they want to share.… There are so many talented people in Edmonton. And all of them had something cancelled or postponed.”
The idea is “one video per day every day the theatre is closed, as long as we need to” says Cloran. “And we’ll put it online, on our Facebook page. And we invite the people who watch to donate.”
All donations go directly to the artists; the theatre doesn’t take a cut. Additionally, with the support of the Edmonton Community Foundation, which agreed to move part of the Citadel’s grant into the project, “every artist will get paid an honorarium.” As Cloran says “it’s a little money going their way. And a chance for us to keep the art alive.”
First up in Stuck-In-The House, available online today at 4 p.m., resonates strongly in that regard. Oscar Derkx, a cast-member in two Citadel productions, As You Like It and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, impacted by the current crisis, sings Let It Be, from the former: Cloran’s ‘60s-style production, set to some 25 Beatles songs, closed four performances earlier than slated. “It’s just heartbreakingly gorgeous,” says Cloran.
Every day at noon, expect a new Stuck-In-The-House offering. Saturday’s has actor/ playwright, improviser Belinda Cornish presenting “a look at her adaptation of Todd Babiak’s novel The Garneau Block,” which was to have had its world premiere last weekend. On Sunday, the premier theatre couple Kristi Hansen and Sheldon Elter, talk about their cancelled shows, Edmonton Opera’s Candide and Punctuate! Theatre’s After The Fire (respectively).
Cloran says he and Citadel executive director Chantell Ghosh have done an introductory video “where you get to see me play my drums! One night during previews for As You Like It, I wore a referee costume, and played with the band!”
As for this season’s heartbreaking news, Cloran is determined that Citadel audiences won’t be deprived of either The Garneau Block or Peter Pan Goes Wrong, both postponed, not cancelled. “We’re committed to these shows,” he says, “both for artists to get to do them and audiences to get to see them…. ” But the “when” can’t be nailed down, of course. “We’re drawing up plans, imagining them, right now. But things seem to change hourly.”
The Garneau Block got as far as the final dress rehearsal before the run was shut down, the night before the first public preview. The Citadel invited “a really lovely audience” of artists whose shows had been cancelled, As You Like It, Candide, Noises Off (at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre), etc. “Then we locked the doors of the Maclab, and walked out. It’s all still set up in there. And our hope is that when we get the go-ahead, it’ll just be a matter of trying to get the artists back together and ramping it up again.”
That reassembling of actors and the creative team depends, of course, on the length of the hiatus. A couple of months delay is a very different situation than six, or a whole season, as Cloran points out. “If we’re able to get back in the summer, we have some flexibility.” Elvis the Musical is slated to run in July, “if the world allows our first big show back… Maybe we could run The Garneau Block in August, to celebrate an Edmonton story along with another Edmonton story, the Edmonton Fringe…. If it gets pushed back into next season then we have to make choices.”
Could The Garneau Block be delayed till the following season? Might it displace one of the announced 2020-2021 productions? “It’s all dependent on what the world allows,” says Cloran. “And we really can’t know until we get closer to summer and fall…. Right now we’re going with the thought that next season remains in place as planned.”
As it stands, a cancellation of The Garneau Block (a Citadel commission) and Peter Pan Goes Wrong (a co-production with Vancouver’s Arts Club, which was to have staged it in the summer), represents “more than $1 million loss in box office revenue alone, not counting what we spent building and rehearsing. A big hit.”
The Garneau Block “is going to happen!” Cloran declares. “We just can’t guarantee when. Whether it’s this summer or next season, or two seasons from now, it will. We have a Plan B, a Plan C, a Plan D….”
“Belinda (playwright Cornish) did a great job of it; Rachel’s (director Rachel Peake) production is really lovely….We’re committed,” he says. “Please stick with us over the next couple of months as we develop a plan…. You can choose to hang on to those tickets, or transfer them to another show. Or donate that ticket cost to support us.” And if none of the above is workable, “a refund, of course.”