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Drama students Dustine Sedore, Evander Jack Dewar, Gareth Finnigan, and Dan StanikowskiDrama students Dustine Sedore, Evander Jack Dewar, Gareth Finnigan, and Dan Stanikowski will act in the University Players production “The Stream You Step In.”

Digital dramas to address problem of pandemic performance

The Canadian theatre industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing venues to close their doors indefinitely and putting thousands of performers, producers, and technical staff out of work.

University Players, in partnership with Toronto-based theatre company Outside the March, has created a unique solution to the problem. Under a federal grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, professor Michelle Macarthur hopes to develop 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 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 Mitchell Cushman, creative curator on the project.

The series reflects current events, performed live in short, fast-paced double-bill Zoom webinars, with a different pair of shows each weekend, running 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. It features four young white men 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 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, Nov. 5 to 8 and 19 to 22 at 8 p.m. on the Zoom webinar platform. Tickets to each double-feature are $20, available for purchase through the online box office before 3 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons must register in advance to receive a unique link to the show. For more information, visit www.universityplayers.com.

In a video discussing their work, acting students note they are excited to create a new audience experience: “We're a part of changing the dialogue of what art is.” Watch it now.

—Kristen Siapas