ATHABASCA — The Big River Arts Society (BRASS) and the Athabasca Rotary Club have arranged for some truly "terrible" actors to audition for a role in the hope the story unfolds in a way that will bring some fun and cheer into everyone's lives.
In the first production since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, BRASS is back, taking a stage play adapted for the virtual world and presenting it to three live audiences as well as online.
“We would do an annual dinner theatre and we came to the realization that unfortunately we're not going to be able to do that, but we have some really devoted actors and we wanted to give them something that they could sink their teeth into, safely,” said BRASS executive director Gina Martel in a Sept. 8 interview. "This kind of developed from that. So, partly for the actors who didn't get a chance to perform and then also partly because we thought our community could really use something unifying.”
The production is relatable, Martel says, because it uses something many have become accustomed to over the last year-and-a-half — virtual meetings.
“Because of COVID, we've all been at home on Zoom and we all know what it's like to look at that screen,” she said. “And so, you'll actually find throughout the show a lot of the little nuances that you've experienced in Zoom are touched on in this show as well.”
The Athabasca Rotary Club, who has partnered with BRASS previously for dinner theatre productions, is assisting with promotions again. Normally, the club would arrange the caterer and host the dinner, as well as ticket sales, said Rotarian Marilyn Bittorf, but this production is free of charge as a thank you to the community.
“It’s a very, very good collaboration for our organizations,” Bittorf said. “I think it was 2016 when (Gina) presented to Rotary the idea as mentioned … and we wholeheartedly became involved because it is a really good collaborative area for both of our clubs to work together.”
For now, on Sept. 18 there will be three showings at the Nancy Appleby Theatre at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. with a limit of 100 audience members to allow for distancing.
“This is a one-hour runtime for the show and that's allowing us some time in between to do a little bit of cleaning and disinfecting of bathrooms and such,” said Martel.
The twist for the live audience though is they get to choose which actor did the best bad audition, or the least-bad, bad audition, and is hired for the production by accessing a QR code displayed on the screen.
“It actually is pre-recorded so, the only thing is that the endings – we pre-recorded all the endings — but the audience gets to weigh in, they get to go on their cell phone and vote for the actor who they think should get the part,” Martel said.
Only two of the actors will not be up for the vote, including Martel who plays the director and Susan Galloway, as her assistant, who is drawing from a pool of whomever she stumbles across to present in the auditions.
“I was the person responsible for getting all these auditions lined up,” said Galloway, a BRASS member-at-large. “And I didn't always pick from the best of the crop like, I met one in the dentist's office and one in the line at Walmart.”
The production is dedicated to a huge supporter of local arts who passed away this year and to the greater Athabasca community.
“For us from BRASS, we lost a member this year, Tim McKenna,” Martel said. “And Tim didn't just work with BRASS, but he worked with all kinds of arts organizations in town doing the lights and sound and he was like an absolutely invaluable member of our team. He died very unexpectedly and quickly this year so, we are dedicating this performance to Tim."