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Director faces new normal as rehearsals ramp up for Arviat production

Thirty-year stage director Gord Billard of Arviat is finding the Covid reality more challenging to deal with than a young group of thespians who have been away from the stage for almost a year.

Billard said actors who have been away from the stage for a while don't really present any unique challenge to the director.

It's been almost a year since, from left, Myles Budden, Andy Evaloakjuk, Ted Thompson and Jayden Angalik were part of the troupe that delivered a live performance of Dracula on stage in Arviat on Oct. 30, 2019.
photo courtesy of Gord Billard

He said his regular routine with a cast would help blow away any dust that may have accumulated on their acting skills while being away from the stage for a year.

I normally do a reminder and a review of the basics such as techniques, punctuation, delivery, diction and all the fundamentals of stage speech with the cast members whenever I take on a new show,” said Billard.

Really, it's just a matter of giving the actors more time and training to get back into the groove after a long layoff.

In most cases it's like riding a bike, in that the actors come back and dive right into it and soon start feeling like it wasn't so long ago after all.

We've been rehearsing a new play in Arviat for the past month, or so, and already they're becoming more confident and the projection is there. In fact, it's gone to a good level rather quickly because everyone in the production remembered things pretty swiftly once they got back into the environment again.”

Billard said the overall mood of the troupe has been upbeat since reassembling.

He said the only new development was a number of stage hands who decided they'd rather join the cast of the new production.

I don't know what to attribute it to other than a change of focus, but a couple members of my stage crew, who I've worked with the past couple of years, have started reading and it looks like they'd rather be on stage now in front of the curtain rather than behind it.

That's been interesting to see. I knew they could always read well, but they chose to be in the shadows or up in the lighting booth. But now, for whatever reasons, they're feeling a little more confident and want to be part of the acting troupe.”

Billard said he was a little worried the first turnouts for the rehearsals might be a little light due to the local thespians losing interest during the pandemic, or Covid simply scaring them away from the troupe.

He said he started off with six to eight actors showing up for rehearsals, but that number quickly rose to 15 in a week to 10 days.

Once word began to spread on our work on the Lindsay Price (Theatrefolk) piece, Scenes from a Quarantine, more of my regular cast members began to come out.

We have a pretty strong troupe right now that I think will be able to pull this off quite nicely.”

Billard said the current health restrictions in place due to Covid will affect how the play is delivered.

He said Scenes from a Quarantine was actually written to be done completely on a computer screen if one wanted to, so it could be an online production.

We're looking at doing a mixture of that with some of the vignettes being done online — recording them and projecting them on the screen after a performance of half a dozen or more live ones on the stage.

We'll be cutting out computer screens with people's faces in them and they're going to be acting like they're online, but really they'll be live.

We plan to do the whole production online, but we also hope to do a performance for youths in the theatre before a crowd of controlled numbers due to the pandemic.

There's nothing confirmed, but it remains a distinct possibility.”

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