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Take an exclusive look behind the scenes at Theatre Orangeville

January 14, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It is one thing to write, using the information reported by others; it is another to see the event for oneself. 

The Citizen was invited to attend a filming of one of the participants in the upcoming An Affair of the Heart, Theatre Orangeville’s online production for the Valentine’s Day “season,” as it were, running from Feb. 12 to 25. 

All but the stage was in darkness, the quiet seats providing comfort for the few of us in attendance. In addition to ourselves were the two musicians, Trevor Patt and Nicolas Mustapha. 

“It’s been a long time since I sang on a stage,” Mr. Patt observed, sadly but also expressing his joy about being there. He was sat on a stool, centre stage, guitar in his hands. 

This is a return to Theatre Orangeville for Trevor Patt. He was the Turkey in Dan Needles’ Last Christmas Turkey (music and lyrics by Clive VanderBurgh), premiered at Theatre Orangeville in Dec., 2017. 

David Nairn, Artistic Director, was this day, in charge of the clapperboard, to note the beginning of each film take: “Trevor one, take two,” said Mr. Nairn, snapping his clapperboard shut in front of Mr. Patt’s face. 

The videographer, Sara May, was busy with three cameras. Two she had set meticulously and was paying particular attention to the third, secure on a tall tripod. She bent into it, her attention completely focused, and it was her opinion of how well the recording of Trevor Patt’s song went that dictated satisfaction or a re-try. 

She discussed the angle of his eyes while he sang and where the pianist should look when he lifted his eyes from the keys. She moved her cameras a little this way and that, perfecting the results that would become part of the whole show. 

Beckie Morris, Production Manager and primary set designer for Theatre Orangeville, was there to watch over the background on the stage, ready to adjust and re-arrange as needed, as was Lisa Lahue, Technical Director. At the back of the theatre, the technical heart of the theatre was manned by Dan Palmieri, Assistant Technical Director, ready with the lighting and sound. 

This kept the numbers below the maximum of ten people per space. The current official, provincial ruling is that theatre venues may be open for recording only of performances intended for online showing. Ten people allowed in at one time. This writer made it eight. 

Everyone was strict about masks and distance. Only the two performers were allowed to remove their masks while they were working. A large, clear plexiglass standing in the middle of the stage, a beautiful antique-looking frame around it, gives an interesting shape to define the singer and position his accompanist, while offering additional protection between them. 

Drapery hangs from the walls installed at the back of the stage and the setting is elegant without distracting from the action. That action takes a lot of time and the crew had set aside more than an hour to get Mr. Patt’s performance right on tape. 

David Nairn explained the process: “Sara records as many times as she thinks she needs to [three times in this instance] and sends it all to me and Beckie for our comments and, then, the whole thing is edited, finally, for the show that is seen, once all the filming both here and elsewhere is done. 

“It’s exactly the same and completely different,” he commented, with some irony. 

To see musicians playing on stage – that feels normal; that feels really good. Seeing a darkened, empty house and a person filming the action for online consumption – that is really different and one has the feeling nobody is wanting to get used to it. 

Meanwhile, “I just got tired of doing nothing about being shut down,” Mr. Nairn continued to say a little later, outside the theatre in the foyer, where we were sitting with Trevor Patt for a couple of moments. “And I got tired of everything being offered online for free – it demeans the value of the art.” 

He told us, “This is the way we stay connected to the community as a purveyor of top entertainment and how we keep our team together. I don’t want this extremely talented group of actors, musicians and theatre technicians, creative designers and workers to disappear because they couldn’t stay employed here.” 

As a actor happily employed full time at Stratford until the COVID-19 shut it down, Trevor Patt remarked, somewhat mystified, “Yes, Stratford has brought absolutely nothing new to online audiences – it’s a bit surprising really because they’ve had to lay off most of their technicians and staff.” 

When there are improvements in our circumstances to allow theatres to open once more, theatres who have not been vigorously working to produce new entertainment online could well be scrambling to replace those skilled people, was the concern. 

Life outside of the trials, thrills, and even comforts, of working in the theatre, has seen Mr. Patt busy in the hospitality industry as a bartender at the Bruce Hotel in Stratford. 

Since Theatre Orangeville recently published a cocktail book, called Keep Your Spirits Up! – a collection of 21 cocktails, 18 of which were detailed by Mr. Nairn in the theatre’s weekly online newsletter. Then the conversation fell into a discussion of libations, very enthusiastic and amusing. 

“Nancy Frater [owner of BookLore] called us to ask us for more copies of the book,” Mr. Nairn said. “She told us, ‘They’re selling like mad. In fact, they are only second to Barak Obama!’” 

Of the future, both men were “cautiously optimistic.” 

From David Nairn, “Our sponsors – some are doubling down and we even have subscribers to our online shows across the country.” 

And Mr. Patt: “I just want to go back to work – my ambition? Well, any actor wants to to go to Broadway -” 

“You’re on Broadway,” the Artistic Director reminded him humorously. 

“Really, I’d be happy acting full time again, wherever I could,” said Trevor Patt. 

For all the information about Broadway Bound and Brave New Works, January’s schedules; An Affair of the Heart and more, please go to buy tickets, gift certificates or to subscribe or call the Box Office at 519-942-3423.


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