ANTIGONISH: At a time when theatres and stages across the globe remain shuttered due to COVID-19, artists are responding with unique ways to stay connected through digital means.
For Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre, the digital shift has brought them right back to the magic of the golden age of radio.
Currently under production and preparing to air in September, is the original new radio play Hector the Spectre Steals the Show. The play will air as a six-part weekly series, with each episode being 10 minutes long. Listeners can tune in through their radio, or on-line, to enjoy the play from the comfort of home.
Written by artistic director Andrea Boyd and local artist/playwright Laura Teasdale, the story is based on the legend of the Bauer Theatre’s resident ghost, Hector, and is inspired by real stories collected from artists and community members of all ages who have had encounters with Hector over the last 30 years. The play imagines a world where live theatre still happens, and where Festival Antigonish is producing a new play about the legendary ghosts “Blue Nun and Red Priest.” But when Hector, benevolent ghost of the theatre, sees that this ghost story on stage is not about him, he takes matters into his own hands.
“We wanted to create something theatrical that would connect us to our community,” says Boyd, “but on-line theatre didn’t seem right for us. Producing a radio play means we can have high production values, our audience can be entertained without the stress of yet more ‘screen time,’ and anyone can listen to it regardless of their Internet speed or access. Particularly for us, being located in rural Nova Scotia where the infrastructure isn’t consistent and there is a larger senior population, we wanted to make our art as accessible as possible.
“It was also important to us to push our creative boundaries and provide work for theatre artists at a time when the industry is hurting, so we wrote this play for the actors who were originally cast in our main stage shows, which of course all had to be cancelled.”
The play will feature the voices of Nova Scotian artists Francine Deschepper, Kevin Curran, Josh MacDonald, James MacLean, Liliona Quarmyne, and Laura Teasdale. To maintain social distancing, the lines will be pre-recorded by professional actors and then spliced together by a sound engineer.
The play will air (radio and on-line) in September 2020 on 98.9 XFM.
“We are pleased to partner with Festival Antigonish on this unique project,” says XFM general manager Ken Farrell. “These are uncertain times for the community, and we are very happy to have the opportunity to offer something different to our listeners. Stay tuned for Wednesdays becoming theatre nights on the radio!”
Details about the dates, times, and how to listen will be shared on the social media pages for Festival Antigonish and XFM closer to September.
The project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, in partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, and the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia. It is also supported by Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, with the goal to help community members stay connected with one another, and with the healing power of art.
The Festival Antigonish 2020 season was put on hold due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, with all shows being postponed until 2021.