Despite a lockdown in the middle of a worldwide pandemic the show is going on for some young aspiring theatre actors in Owen Sound.
But the opening curtain is being cast aside right now, replaced by computer “on” buttons as the Roxy Youth Program kicks off in a virtual format this month.
“From the beginning we knew that COVID would be a challenge and different opportunities and different obstacles might come up,” the Roxy Theatre’s youth program coordinator Lacey Mooney said Tuesday from the downtown Owen Sound theatre.
“We planned for virtual from the beginning. If we could be in person, that was our hope, but then we made it so we could also quickly flip to a virtual setup.”
So with the 28-day provincial shutdown that came into effect on Boxing Day, the switch to virtual sessions has been made for the start of the program. On Tuesday, Mooney and a few other Owen Sound Little Theatre members were getting accustomed to the equipment set up on the Roxy stage that will be used to stream the instructors into the homes of theatre students.
The plan is that once the shutdown ends and small indoor camps are again permitted, they will move forward with some in-person instruction with health and safety measures around mask wearing and physical distancing in place.
“If something were to happen again and we have to switch back then we are ready, we have the setup and we are prepared,” Mooney said. “The number one thing is that we obviously want to keep everyone safe.”
The Roxy Young Company youth theatre training for children ages 10 to 18 will begin Jan. 13. The program is separated into three acts running from January to May, culminating with a performance May 28 to 30 – either live or virtual, depending on the progress made in the battle against COVID-19.
The plan is to hold the first three sessions virtually until they are able to get back into the theatre as a group, at which time sessions will be held on the Roxy stage.
Meanwhile, beginning on Jan. 16, a Youth Theatre Education Workshop Series is planned for youth ages eight to 18.
The one-time educational workshops feature local theatre and acting veterans providing instruction on a variety of topics on Saturday mornings.
The first session, Introduction to Script Writing with Christopher McGruer will be presented virtually on Jan. 16 from 9 to 11 a.m. The other sessions include Acting 101 with Corry Lapointe on Feb. 20, Introduction to Prop Making with Debbie Morris on March 27, Choreography with Paula Mercer on April 17, Introduction to Set Design with Paul Nicholson on May 15 and Introduction to Theatre Lighting with Bill Murphy on June 12.
Mooney said the Roxy’s robust programming for youth is something that is being revitalized at the theatre. In recent years there have been March Break and summer camps, and other youth theatre groups have used the Roxy, but there has been a void of such opportunities of late.
The plan is for the work by the youth to become part of the annual playbill at the theatre.
“That production in May the kids put on will act as an Owen Sound Little Theatre production, which is huge,” said Mooney. “It is an amazing addition to have something just for kids that they can be involved in.”
Mooney said that while the OSLT’s annual playbill – which has had to be put on hold due to COVID-19 – is great, it isn’t always geared towards a younger audience and doesn’t always includes roles for children.
“I think it is important to get them in here, learning about theatre, and then we have members going forward,” she said. “I joined when I was 11, and had there not been a show that I could have joined, who knows if I ever would have. It is just creating opportunities for them.”
Mooney said OSLT felt that even with the logistical hurdles it was even more important than ever to move forward with the youth programming during the pandemic.
“What we were hearing is that a lot of kids are bored. All programming has been cancelled so there is not a lot for them to do,” she said. “Especially when kids have an outlet like theatre and you don’t have it for a period of time it is really hard, because that is the way they express themselves.
“A lot of friendships are made in the theatre, so if they can’t be around their friends and they can’t express themselves it is really tough.”
Mooney said they have had a lot of interest in the youth programming, but people are understandably nervous with the ongoing pandemic.
“We want to ensure everyone that we have all the protocols in place and we are prepared,” Mooney said. “We know with kids that they don’t want to do another virtual thing, they don’t want to be on ZOOM again, but this is different because it is fun, it is interactive, there are drama games and there is singing.”
Registration for the Roxy Young Company is $450 per participant and includes over 122 hours of instruction plus the planned show on the Roxy stage. Participation is limited to 20 attendees, who will be separated into two cohorts.
The cost for the Youth Theatre Education workshops is $50 per session.
More information and registration is available by visiting roxytheatre.ca.