Theatrical actors and directors isolated by COVID-19 produce novel online plays

The online theatrical piece starts in a faraway forest, moves across a parched desert, roiling seas and towering mountains before ending with a savage battle involving a furry beast.

Not bad for a production that spans five minutes.

The video, titled “The Big Little Adventures of Beebee and Russel,” is one of 18 short plays recently adapted for small screens by theatrical writers, directors and actors from across Canada – all of them forced into isolation by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brief videos in the Isolate Nights series, produced over five days earlier this month, were released Saturday on the Villains Theatre website.

“We wanted to do it on a quick timeline because a lot of people had just lost their theatre contracts and were grappling with that first wave of: ‘What do we do now?”‘ said Colleen MacIsaac, artistic producer of the Halifax-based non-profit theatre company.

“Across all of the art forms, people are trying to figure out ways to help each other …. Theatre is such a gig-based economy.”

Given the tight deadline and the fact that most of the 70 participating actors and directors were stuck in their homes, the resulting two-hour compilation of new work reflects remarkable ingenuity.

“The Big Little Adventures of Beebee and Russel,” for example, features two stuffed animals – Beebee the bear and Russel the platypus – who begin their epic adventure in a forest made from stacked canned goods. The ocean is a blue blanket, the mountains are piles of books and the evil beast is Bjorne, a piebald house cat.

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After Bjorne is vanquished by the “spray gun of redemption,” we see two of the four creators giving us the thumbs up before a final message appears: “Sending love from isolation.”

“It’s very adorable,” says MacIsaac, referring to the whimsical tale created by Kirsten Bruce, Christian Ludwig Hansen, Adriana Loewen and Ella MacDonald.

Most of the pieces are full of fun and mischief, some are just bizarre – but they all share the same theme: connection.

“It really is indicative of a tendency toward hope and joy and finding humour in dark times,” MacIsaac said. “That’s something we all need right now.”

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