Delta Stageworks is gearing up for its inaugural show next month, a little over a year after the pandemic forced the local theatre company to postpone what would have been its debut project.
Then & Now: Pandemic Life Stories is a multi-media staged reading about a group of people in Delta living through the highs and lows of a world upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, set to the hit the stage at Ladner’s Genesis Theatre Nov. 13 and 14.
The show, which is being directed by no comment. th(é)âtre artistic director Cory Haas, was developed over the course of the last year through a group theatre-making process called “devised theatre.”
“We interviewed people in our community, adapted news stories, created hybrid scenes with both in-person and online participants, talked to friends, family and reflected on our own lived experiences,” Delta Stageworks co-founder Peg Keenleyside said of the year-long process, adding the company held the series of workshops not knowing when —or if — provincial health orders would allow the members to work together.
“Its been an amazing, sometimes challenging journey.”
Community members were encouraged to be part of the creative process, with up to 12 people interacting with each other at a time via Zoom.
“One of the great things about this creative journey has been how cathartic it has proven to be in dealing with the impact the pandemic has had on our lives, family and community since March 2020,” Then & Now co-writer and company member Cameron Bancroft said.
“We hope the audience will connect with us and share in that cathartic experience from watching the show.”
The project also includes the involvement of local filmmaker Cliff Caprani, who previously worked with Delta Stageworks’ creative team on a 2018 devised theatre project about stories of young men and women from Delta who served in the First World War. That project, Delta 1914-1918: A Historical Reenactment, was produced and directed by Keenleyside saw audience members move through the historic Kirkland House as actors reenacted the stories of real-life Delta families whose sons and daughters were drawn into the war.
Delta Stageworks was to make it debut performance last fall with a similar production, Untold Stories: Delta BC in the 1920s, co-presented by the Delta Heritage Society.
“Our goal (…) is to stage the reenactment right on Delta Street, creating an immersive experience for audiences that will feel like they have stepped back in time to the 1920s,” Keenleyside said in a March 2020 press release.
The show was slated for October 2020 but has been postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing pandemic.
Of working on Then & Now, Caprani said, “It’s been fascinating to weave Zoom recordings and the visual bits and pieces of life as we’ve come to experience it into to the spoken scenes.”
The company includes artist associates Marilyn Norry, Renee Iaci, Sam Bob, Eric Keenleyside and community members Sandra and Lorne Patterson, Vera Mayor and Nick Keenleyside, with Norry’s extensive background in playwriting helping the members shape the play.
“The truth of it is that it’s creatively challenging to write a play about something as big as this while you’re still in middle of it,” Norry said about a play that embraces the humorous side of pandemic life.
Delta Stageworks Theatre Society’s production of Then & Now: Pandemic Life Stories will run for two shows — Saturday Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m — at the Genesis Theatre in Ladner (5005 45th Avenue).
General admission tickets cost $21 (plus fees) and are available at the door or online at deltastageworks.ca.
Patrons must show their vaccine card and photo identification and wear a mask, as per provincial health orders.