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With virtual 'locations' and a worldwide audience, Elora theatre group embraces live Zoom plays

'We’ve been getting really good reactions from people:' director at Elora Community Theatre

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

When the pandemic halted play production and practices for the Elora Community Theatre (ETC), the board reached out to its play directors with an idea: live streaming zoom plays.

That idea opened new doors of creativity. Not only were cast members able to rehearse, dress up and perform without ever leaving their room, they also attracted a worldwide audience and got really creative with set backgrounds and designs. 

“We’ve been getting really good reactions from people. We have people tuning in from all over. When we did A Midsummer Night's Dream, we had a school from New Jersey watch,” said Teagan Hiller who is directing the group's next play, War of the Worlds, with a cast full of teens on Jan. 30. 

“It really just reaches out to people and it provides people across the world this theatre experience that no one has gotten in a really long time because the theatres have been shut down,” said Hiller, a student at Eastwood Collegiate Institute in Kitchener who’s been with the ETC for six years. 

So far, the theatre has performed six shows on their YouTube live stream channel.

Hiller said the live stream not only provides accessible entertainment and a live experience for the audience, but also benefits the actors. 

“It’s not fun sitting at home and having nothing to do,” said Hiller. 

“A lot of actors had shows cancelled when the pandemic started.”

Hiller said the team underwent some production struggles initially but is getting better as they produce more plays.

And while it felt odd to fully dress up in elaborate costumes and go nowhere, Hiller said now, it's fun. 

“Nowadays you don't get to dress up to do anything,” said Hiller. 

Hiller said while the ETC has some amazing physical sets, it's not possible to do everything one wants with a set and so Zoom backgrounds open a new range of possibilities. 

“With these zoom calls, you get to do a lot of stuff. You can have 20 different locations. With a set, you would probably get five of them at the most.”

Performers can be seen switching between various elaborate and detailed locations such as the court of Athens and the woods within seconds. 

Hiller said even though the shows are free, she encourages the audience to donate to ECT.

“We’re not charging people to watch the show but it does cost us money to pay for the rights for the show and pay for scripts,” said Hiller. 

“As well as when theatres open, we need some sort of money to keep shows going and put shows on.”

Hiller said for her first time directing, it’s a pretty cool experience.

“For my show war of the worlds, I'm working with teams and people close to my age, and it's almost easier over Zoom because everyone is just in one place. If a person is talking over, you can just mute them,” she said. 

Upcoming shows include War of the Worlds on Jan. 30, The White Liars on Feb. 27, The Reluctant Dragon on March 27 and Stuart Little on April 24.