Theatre Orangeville set to debut new online Halloween show

November 5, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield 

Good news: in a year that has been a stretch of miserable tricks and very few treats, Halloween is here at last. 

The very bright and creative team at Theatre Orangeville, with their theatre now operating online, are beginning their season with Phantoms at the Opera House. Meaning, no matter what, Theatre Orangeville is still in the business of bringing the best entertainment to audiences, in whatever form it takes. 

“We started working on the Halloween show [just over] two weeks ago,” Mr. Nairn began his interview with the Citizen. “We’ve received the nicest emails, wonderful support from patrons. I’m in a really happy place right now because we’re working. You can buy a link to our shows – this is a bridge until we can finally go back,” he promised, as he has been doing all along. “We will be there for you – we’re here for you now. What we’re trying to do with this entertainment is to provide a show from Oct. 30, for two weeks; the ‘opening night’ is (tomorrow).” 

He told us, “Kristen da Silva wrote a little piece that she and Stephen Sparks are performing. Dan Needles wrote an original piece and there is a wonderful ghost story in the Wingfield series, which Rod [Beattie] came up to do.” 

Furthermore, “Leisa Way comes out with the grand piano, covered in candles. And Wayne Townsend did his recording on the railway; it’s a ghost story. 

“People love Theatre Orangeville; they know they’re used to some wonderful plays,” Mr. Nairn commented. “What we need from supporters and patrons is that they continue to support us by buying tickets/links.” 

To really clarify, he explained, “The link becomes live at 7:00 p.m. on Oct. 30, but you can watch it anytime within the two week period. You buy the link: instead of separate, multiple tickets, there’s just one purchase. The link is all you need for any number of people in your home. That’s been a really different notion to get your head around, but you cannot see this particular show anywhere else.” 

And once it’s gone, it’s gone forever, David confirmed. 

“What becomes of the show after the two week run is, it will never see the light of day again,” he said. 

He added, “With the link, you’re seeing an excellent, original show: people need to understand that they can watch it at any time during any 24 hours. That’s the key message. And you’re support the company. 

A chilling thought, he related “I’ve read a report that 40 percent of theatres will not survive, or will radically alter how they manage. We can’t cut or compromise or sacrifice any of our programs, but if we can’t afford to support them, how would we heart-breakingly decide which one goes? We’re working under the wage subsidies and some money donations and fundraisers and funding from bodies– like (Orangeville) Council. The federal wage subsidy has been our lifeline. If we didn’t have that support, it would have been impossible and we’ve been told that will continue until 2021 summer.” 

All well and good but, “What we need is the support of our patrons to get us to that point. Instead of going cap in hand, asking for donations, we’re providing entertainment and we’re asking them to see it, to watch it, give it word-of-mouth praise to others.” 

Phantoms at the Opera House, opening by Theatre Orangeville’s link, begins, as reassuringly usual, with David Nairn thanking the production’s sponsors. 

Following on, the Citizen spoke to playwright, Kristen da Silva, who wrote the eight minute play for Phantoms of the Opera House, The Darkest Minutes. 

“It’s a part of the whole show,” she said. “We [she and Stephen Sparks] did our rehearsals over Zoom. Then we recorded it on the stage at the theatre, with all the protocols. I wrote it for there to be no contact. It’s set in 1948, a wealthy man and his housekeeper. It’s pretty scary,” she admitted. “Theatre Orangeville did a great job of creating atmosphere, as well, we shot it in black and white. 

Well known for her humorous plays, she told us, “It’s chilling, not a comedy. I thought of making it funny but then I thought, ‘it’s Halloween and I’m going to go the whole way.’ 

“Writing such a short play was strangely challenging in that you need to clip things. I have actually written a short film. I had some experience in at least taking an idea and bringing it down to nine pages. 

“What was fun, the most rewarding part was just getting back into the theatre. It was really great. It was really fun to shoot something, and to write something from another time. I think it’ll be fun to watch. People are looking for things to do. This piece that I wrote is a tense nine minutes: what frightens us? I thought about what makes us afraid.” 

“I’m so lucky,” declared Stephen Sparks, the co-star of The Darkest Minutes and our next interview. “I have such pride and respect for what Theatre Orangeville is doing, making something out of nothing. One thing that I want to say, I showed up to do the shoot and I entered one of my favourite theatres and talking to people that I love. 

“As David said, ‘This is the first time that all of us are together for such a long time – and here we are doing this. Nobody is working.’ And I just realized that I was standing on the stage working with some people I really respect and I love. It was such a gift – I was so fulfilled. 

“The shoot was great,” Mr. Sparks went on to say. “It was ingenious from Kristen’s part; no reason to be close to each other. We rehearsed all masked and, then, Kristen and I took off our masks, keeping our distance. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I saw one frame, really dark. 

“This is a nice touch: at one point in the play, we look at the time. I have an old clock, which hung in my grandfather’s school house. It has three hands and one of the hands is the date. We put it as Halloween night. Means I’ve got a little provenance in this.” 

Here are the nuts and bolts of it, as Mr. Nairn explained, “You tune in and you can stop and restart [in case of needing a break]. Then, that’s done: you can hit start twice. Just as if you were in the theatre, you sit and watch normally. There are limits to restarting the link.” 

Exactly like going to the theatre, one ticket or link, gives you “one watch per link. We need that clarity,” he said. “If you went to the theatre and loved the show so much, you wanted to go again, you would buy another ticket.” 

Stephen Sparks gave it all life: in answer to our asking why everyone should buy a link and see the show, he didn’t hesitate: “Oh my God,” he exclaimed, “Because it’s Halloween. Everything is so messed up and we’re looking for opportunities to celebrate the season. 

“It’s exactly like the feeling when David said: ‘We’ve all spent two hours in the theatre doing the work we love.’ 

“It’s a little bit like being the audience again to know that others are watching, separately but together, the whole audience, not just you and your family eating popcorn. It’s also the rest of the audience, watching along with you and that is an audience. Try to remember you’re part of a whole.” 

He said, “This is an expression of community.” 

For all the details and to purchase your link, go to or call them at 519-942-3423. 

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