Silent Film Night Alive To the Sounds of the Roaring 20s

The Old Fire Hall, on Front Street, will be roaring on November 19, as The Open Pit Theatre launches its Silent Film Night fundraiser with an early twentieth-century theme.

The event will screen old silent films from the early 1900s, while being underscored in real time by local musicians Andrea McColeman, Lonnie Powell and Dave Haddock, said co-artistic director Geneviève Doyon.

The fundraiser, which is twofold, is for the Open Pit Theatre’s current production of a mask and puppetry show called Radio Silence, which was launched this past spring and is now touring in Victoria, B.C. In addition, a brand-new piece called Look Up, designed for people with reduced mobility (those in continuing care homes, hospitals, etc.) is currently in the works.

“It’s a very different kind of show,” Doyon said. “It’s short performances that is designed for audience members to be lying on their backs.”

The idea will be to have an overhead projector that will project onto the ceiling and that combines live animation with the overhead projector, along with live storytelling and a live soundscape. Doyon added there is still much outreach and research to do, as the production is developed, and that will be worked on over the winter.

As for the Silent Film Night evening, Doyon said the fundraiser is a dress-up event, with a photo booth and some special 1920s treats such as era-specific drinks.

Sorry kids, this one is for the adults.

“A joke we often say [about the event] is it’s not a silent film night, as there is live music and improv,” Doyon added with a laugh.

The format will consist of showing three short films, and for one of them there will not only be the improvised music, but also improvised (voice) acting.

“There are going to be improv actors, improvising the voice-over to the film,” Doyon said.

She was quick to point out that the actors have a limited pre-screening of the film so that their narrative doesn’t go completely off track. The films of that era also have title cards cut in-between the moving images, so that will be a little bit of help to the actors but will allow them to still be creative with their delivery.

“It makes for a really funny [show],” said Doyon, adding, “I think it’s a really refreshing thing to witness, as a 2022 audience, because the acting in those films is really outrageous. It’s so big; it’s so over the top.”

That combination of the audience’s enthusiasm, along with the actors having fun and getting into their roles, makes it fun on a huge scale, she said.

Another major highlight of the evening will be the Make A Plane Game, which is always a huge deal and a lot of fun, Doyon said. The game sees participants make a paper airplane, which is then thrown in the direction of a volunteer holding a suitcase. A plane that lands in the target (or is closest to it) is declared the winner, with the lucky individual getting a free Air North round-trip flight to one of the destinations on the airline’s western routes.

“I’m really excited about this specific one, as we haven’t done one since 2019,” Doyon said, adding, “I have been out and about a little bit, in the last few weeks, and there really is a sense that people are so happy to see each other and celebrate together, and it’s a very celebratory type of event. It has it all in the sense that there’s acting, films, live music, dress-up. It’s right downtown. It’s very festive and it’s very exciting.”

As for Doyon’s role with Open Pit Theatre, she says she has worn many hats with the company and that the concept of it all is very group-oriented, with people coming and going as needed, based on the particular production.

“I like to say I am a theatre creator. Sometimes I perform, sometimes I write. I have done some directing in the past.” Doyon also said that she (along with her fellow co-artistic director Jessica Hickman and the board of directors with Open Pit Theatre) doesn’t really adhere to the traditional hierarchy of theatre where the director is at the top. That includes not always conforming to pre-written scripts, but rather letting the inspiration come from improvised input and from ideas that can be extrapolated on.

“We are basically interested in non-traditional theatre and non-traditional ways of creating.

“We are very collaborative,” Doyon added. “Really, the idea is that each piece should have its own unique creative method to it.”

This year’s productions—Radio Silence and Look Up—will mark the 12th year of Open Pit Theatre’s performances. For more information about Open Pit Theatre, go to

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