Sharon Shorty performs at the Guild Comedy Night as part of the ‘Round Back Series
The Guild Hall is getting creative. Of course, that’s pretty standard for the Whitehorse theatre, but COVID-19 is forcing a different kind of creativity.
“When the pandemic hit … we needed something to do and the outdoor space needed cleaning up,” said Brian Fidler, artistic director of the Guild Hall. “As we started sorting through the sets, wood and props we had stored out (back), we started to find some really neat pieces.”
The grounds were scattered with 40 years worth of materials from past Guild shows, which gave staff the idea to turn those materials into a viable venue for a COVID-19 world. The result is an outdoor space that can host 25 to 30 audience members in various separate viewing islands, allowing them to maintain their social bubbles while still getting to see live entertainment.
Al Loewen, the Guild’s set builder, took some of Fidler’s sketches and built the islands (one is an old boat that’s been outfitter with a cover to keep out the elements) to accommodate between two to four people each. The islands surround a raised stage, located at their centre. With this the ‘Round Back Series was born. Shows have been taking place Thursday to Saturday, with different shows every week.
The Guild has been partnering with organizations that don’t have a COVID-approved venue.
“It’s an offer of not only having a space for audiences to enjoy live performance again, but to also get artists back on stages,” said Fidler. “People have responded really well to the venue and are getting into the spirit of it; we’ve been selling out.”
Fidler thinks people are grateful to be able to see live performance in a safe environment. Sometimes that environment is a bit unpredictable, but Fidler said people have embraced the fact that it’s an outdoor series.
“They’ve been really great at bringing blankets, toques and jackets, but there will come a point where it’s just too cold to continue and I can’t really see pushing that past early October.”
While the series ended on Oct. 3, the Guild has an indoor plan in place. It consists of a series of small plays with two to three actors, which can be performed for small audiences. The Nimble Series required the Guild to be set up cabaret-style, with individual tables for small groups. At the moment, there are two productions lined up, along with a series of workshops. If all goes well, that series will continue through the winter to the spring. At that point, the Guild, in partnership with Gwaandak Theatre, is producing Tara Beagan’s play Dreary and Izzy. The play, which takes place in 1975 in Lethbridge, Alberta, tells the story of two sisters (one of whom suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) who both fall in love with a gorgeous vacuum cleaner salesman.
“It’s a charmer,” said Fidler. “But it doesn’t pull any punches. We’re really excited to bring it to a Yukon audience.”
As the Guild’s season unfolds, Fidler said he’ll continue to look for partnerships with other groups. In this spirit, the hall has launched Make it at the Guild, an offer to Yukon artists and organizations looking for space to create work.
“Theatres are kind of like churches,” said Fidler. “they aren’t used all the time and this year especially there won’t be people in the theatre all of the time, so we want to open up the space and share it with people.”
To learn more about what’s going on at the Guild visit GuildHall.ca