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Isolate Nights sees local theatre industry combat production shutdowns

Playwrights worked to write plays, submit them, and then let the public in on it on social media on Saturday, March 21
(stock photo)

With movie theatres, stages and studios shut down, local troupe Villains Theatre sought to give those in the entertainment industry a way to collaborate and make plays.

For Artistic Producer and Co-Founder Colleen MacIsaac, Isolate Nights became a way to give the community a break after so many cancelled shows.

With 70 artists, 19 plays and five days, playwrights locally and across the world worked to write plays, submit them, and then let the public in on it on social media on Saturday, March 21.

“It went really well. Last Monday, we just had this idea. We put it together so quickly – partially because the world was changing so quickly – and we had to give people something to do,” said MacIsaac.

“The artists livestreamed on the 21st and we sent out a high-quality version two days later. We were blown away by the reaction we got. There was an overwhelming response from artists.”

They also allowed for people to donate to the artists using PayPal or E-Transfer.

“We wondered about the donations we’d receive, but we got about 30, and people were quite generous. Now we will have some money to send to artists,” she said.

She hopes that this time in isolation may remind people of just how integral the arts can be to our everyday lives.

“People who made a living off the industry understood and have always been hyper-aware. But I hope others have an epiphany. If they’re in their homes watching Netflix, making puzzles, or playing games, they may not think of them as art, but these things are,” she said.

“They were created by people and supported by people behind them. It’s donations and support that would allow us to keep making television shows, or livestreaming theatre like we did. People interact with art every day and I’d love the appreciation to be seen.”

The Villains Theatre is happy to be engaging a wide community, and often did play-in-a-day style things. But doing online plays and livestreaming is a nice, new territory.

“We looked at that template and always did short play nights, but we’ve seen theatre companies are start doing livestreaming and we’re so interested. It’s a great way to experience things together like this, for artists and audiences.”

Playwrights were asked to write with the theme of connection – something the world deeply yearns for right now – in mind.

“In theatre, we’re so used to live performances, and the disconnection physically has made such a huge impact. We can’t practice and do scheduled plays, because we can’t be in the same room. So the Isolate Nights was an important, positive and uplifting experience,” she said.

“Writing scripts, and figuring out how actors and directors can perform with roommates, or through Zoom or Facebook chat was really interesting. It was a vague theme, allowing playwrights to go in any direction, and we want people to actually think about connections during this time.”

Isolate Nights was a big experience, and MacIsaac is planning to continue to engage the theatre community and audiences alike.

“As times go on, we want to continue doing things like this. We are looking at new ways of working and playing with the format online. At some point in April, we’d love to do an open call for plays and participation,” she said.

“This is drama therapy, and it’s giving people a chance to still work and create. With so many contracts cancelled, this is so important.”

She said we will see more events like this popping up – both locally and abroad – in the coming weeks, and she was enthused by the participation of Haligonians and those with connections the first time.

“Most of our performers were in Nova Scotia or Halifax, but then there were also people from British Columbia, Australia, the Northwest Territories and more. Many are artists who used to be here in Halifax,” she said.

“Either they’re from here and moved, or passed through and engaged in the arts community. They never got the opportunity to come back due to circumstance, but this was an amazing event to see people who miss making theatre here getting a chance to do it. People came together regardless of distance, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

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