Theatre keeping up with the community during pandemic

June 12, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

David Nairn, Artistic Director of Theatre Orangeville, took some time from his schedule to chat with the Citizen about the busy online life of the theatre. 

Above all, the theatre’s Facebook page is a steady flow of information and news about the theatre world far and wide. Also, it is the platform for the various announcements coming from Theatre Orangeville on various social issues. 

An announcement recently informed patrons and the public that the hopefully re-scheduled production for later in August, of the New Canadian Curling Club has been cancelled, with the assurance that a plan to bring it back, in due course, is in hand.

The currently very popular newsletter, Constant Contact Weekly Celebration of the Arts, “keeps us in touch with the public,” Mr. Nairn explained. “This is for us to keep in contact. It is not a fundraising, nor a platform to donate to a particular cause. It is a shout out to our sponsors; people in the community, who we are reaching out to.

“Recently, we’ve done a shoot of a whole series of Elfie [Theatre Orangeville’s Christmas Elf]. Now, he’s in a summer car.” 

“This all began because we were thinking, how can we help? What can we share? So, we thought of a playlist, which has been running for about 12 weeks now. It’s the staff suggesting songs. So, it’s very eclectic. Every week, I try to guess who suggested a song but when I heard who chose The Grateful Dead – well – I was surprised. You just never know…”

The reaction: “We’re getting such great response. We began this newsletter with recipes, a song list. It is not a sales tool,” he wanted to emphasize. “We want people to remember who we are. Teena [Avery, marketing] is the curator, but it’s team effort.”

He chuckled as he related, “Then I had the idea of doing a cocktail thing. We have turned our kitchen into a studio. For my backdrops, we’ve used sets from Leisa’s [Way, singer, actor and producer of 12 musical shows.] We’ll use the Canada Day backdrop from Leisa’s show. We pretty much do it in one take. 

“I have a list a mile long of cocktails that I like,” he reckons, “I try to make it with ingredients not too far out; all things that can be found at the LCBO. I’m trying to anyway. We’re getting all so many great responses.” 

During the course of these cocktail building videos that David Nairn does for the Celebrate the Arts Friday “newsletter,” he talks a lot about the history of the drink he is describing or the history of the time it came into popularity, telling us, “I do a lot of research. The drinks are relatively easy to make but interesting. I did the Rob Roy, a favourite with Queen Victoria, a one ounce shot of single malt whisky and an equal shot of claret [red wine from Bordeaux, what it has been and is called by the English]. I thought it sounded so bad, it was going to go sideways but it turned out alright.

“There’s lots of research. The Boston Side Car is a three ounce drink, with a final splash of half an ounce of fresh lime juice. It was really delicious. Made a little differently, it was called Between the Sheets.”

From the movie classic, Casablanca, Mr. Nairn offered, “The French 75: gin, champagne, a little lemon – delightful!”

He promised, “We will do a sherry cobbler. It’s one of the oldest cocktails. Dickens mentions it in Martin Chuzzlewit. It introduced the drinking straw.”

As a side note, it is a hundred years since the cocktail became truly popular– the 1920’s!

“The whole newsletter is one of the best antidotes for what’s going on. Everybody’s in the mood for it. Enjoy the lightness of it; to keep the theatre in people’s mind. So, when the all clear is sounded, they’ll be longing to come back.”

Mr. Nairn had a wonderful bit of news: “Over the last couple of days, 18 subscriptions were purchased. They said, ‘We don’t care what the plays are – don’t care when you’re doing them – we just want to be there when they are.’

“This was completely unsolicited,” he commented.

“We’ve been giving Creative Partners On Stage (CPOS) a lot of thought, trying to figure how we can let them rehearse.

“But for Theatre Orangeville Exceptional Players (T.O.E.P.), there will be classes on line.”

He added as an inevitability, “Certain parts of this will become part of how we continue to do things. Zoom is a very good tool. It’s a great way for people to keep in touch, during a – hopefully unusual – time. We do Zoom because we know not everybody is into social media. We laugh a lot when we’re putting this together – it’s good to put faces to people, like the section, Ask the Expert.”

He did the role call, “Each week has on, in addition to the cocktails, the recipe, news about the arts from other sources, the play list, puzzles and ask the expert. The last was Dan Palmieri on sound,” informing us, “Dan has developed and created a workshop about sound and lighting that he’ll be presenting.”

The workshops have been another win for the theatre. Dan Reale recently completed a four-week series of writing a monologue; as did Mark Crawford for basic playwriting. 

Debbie Collins had been doing acting classes for adults which were interrupted by COVID 19. She continued with an on line workshop on acting .

“There’s so much doom and gloom in the world,” said David Nairn. “I know it has to be covered by the news but everyone needs a break too.

“I do four or five hours a day on Zoom with meetings and work. So, the newsletter just entertains me so much.”

He wanted to be sure to add: “We really invite our patrons to contribute – send along various recipes – song selections.

“We’re trying to have some good fun,” said Mr. Nairn. 

The main source of information is Theatre Orangeville’s Facebook page, accessible through the website: for our Facebook page 

“All anyone needs to do is go our Facebook – there are posts every day and just scroll down.” 

Anyone wanting to receive the weekly Celebration of the Arts from Theatre Orangeville should simply contact the theatre and request it. Everyone is welcome at your theatre, as David Nairn promises.

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