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Theatre Orangeville's Videographer brings real theatre into film




By Constance Scrafield

Filming a staged play so that the film maintains the feel of actually being in the theatre has been the challenge over the several months of the pandemic. For Theatre Orangeville, the person behind the camera trusted with delivering the desired effect is Sara May.

A graduate of Ryerson's Film Studies in 2013, Sara May joined Theatre Orangeville in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She commented during a recent telephone interview with the Citizen, “Well, like everybody, during the pandemic everybody had to shift what they were doing. I was really interested in the things [the team at Theatre Orangeville] were doing. I had shot Community Living Dufferin (CLD) [Theatre Orangeville Exceptional Players - T.O.E.P.] shows and did one film of Leisa's [Way] show. They were a couple of the shows for Theatre Orangeville's virtual shows, putting them online; converting theatre to video. It has been super fun.”

Definitively a team effort, directing the shows has been the loosely divided responsibility between Ms. May and Director David Nairn. When it came to filming the new plays that had been developed, it was a learning curve for both of them: for Mr. Nairn who had never worked with film before and Ms. May whose experience was confined to much shorter works of basically promotional videos.

“Before I started working on that, I wasn't used to doing long stories,” said she, “I had done concerts and the first [for Theatre Orangeville] was Tone Fusion. David really is very trusting and letting me do my thing but it was a back and forth relationship and needed the input from the rest of the crew.”

The process of the filming to get it just right was long winded, setting the scenes and re- shooting them for the editing later. Patience and thoroughness to reflect the excellence of the actors but also the work of the creative team in the sets, lighting, costumes, all that goes into putting a play on stage. The result of many hands at work.

“I think we work very well together,” Ms. May confirmed, "Even though I had started [my career] working on shorter films. This is not corporate videos; it's almost like a movie. To blend that theatre experience with film - it was very exciting for us to tackle together as a team. I think that's when the trust began with the Rules of Playing Risk.”

How to achieve the intimate feeling of live theatre as closely as possible in a film: each scene was shot a number of times, framing each scene differently to capture the emotions, a matter of how they use their resources and capture the sense of theatre. For Ms. May, one of the greatest compliments was people saying that it still felt as though they really were in the theatre.

If David Nairn trusts Sara May, she trusts her instincts: “I trust what I want to see as an audience, in a frame; everything I see is in a frame. So I have to think how I would want to see that - close up or far.”

Now she knows better how to shoot a play. She did not know that before.

Far Sara May, what was really important, as a musician and performer herself by which she admits she partly feels her self-worth and during the pandemic, not being able to perform, to see other people perform for the theatre “was really therapy; it was really important for me to be witnessing the performance of other actors and performers. To film them gave me a space for my creative side,” she said.

Important also has been meeting all these talented performers whom she had not even known before.

“I was in a Young Company show,” she said, “as the King of Hearts, I think. I had a great time. That was my first experience of Theatre Orangeville.”

The first thing she filmed [in the theatre] was Roland Kirouac's wonderful performance called Message from a Fool. After that, there were a couple of other things. It was Teena Avery, the theatre's Marketing Manager who reached out to her to come and work with the Theatre Orangeville team as their videographer.

Having established the routine of filming to share the entertainment on the main stage with audiences virtually; having researched and succeeded in the technology of offering those videos as exclusive viewing for the theatre's online patrons – not only locally but also across the country and into Britain and Europe - Theatre Orangeville online is here to stay.

Ms. May finds it really exciting that Theatre Orangeville is providing the options for people to still “come” to the theatre, commenting that the theatre has bought “live stream video equipment” in order to begin offering streaming of the shows as they are being performed. This option treats the patron to the same rules that apply to physically going to theatre. The play begins at a set time and if a person is late joining online, they necessarily miss what has happened to that point. Get your refreshments ready early.

As ambition, she remarked, “I just want to keep doing the best job I can and making really beautiful films. The whole team is incredible. I just want to keep giving my all to all that. My responsibility is to see these shows are properly filmed on video and bringing my expertise to the work.”

Sara May says everyone can enjoy these productions as they are created by a group of professionals making world class theatre.

“The videos are made as super engaging and they capture the spirit of what it's like watching the plays in person, as though they were actually in the theatre.”

On, as of today at Theatre Orangeville is “Things my Fore-Sisters Saw,” written and starring Leslie McCurdy about four women of African descent who created change in Canada. One of them is the lady on the ten dollar bill. Come and learn all about her. 

The play runs from March 3 to March 13 and will be live streamed on Sunday, March 6 and Thursday, March 10.

After Thursday, it will be available as a ticketed and exclusive video, as usual.

Covid protocols are still in place for in-person showings and to purchase tickets, or learn more about the production, go to www.theatreorangeville.ca.

You can also call the Box Office at 519-942-3423.

 

 


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