Pivot to Unknown

Pivot. It’s been the key word that pretty much every theatre maker I know has uttered at some point over the past year and a half.

Now, as much as fancy myself digitally literate, I’ve never been much of a multi-media guy. I made an honest try of it during my senior year of university which led me to write quite a bit on the merging of technology and theatre. Most notably, I wrote for a magazine called Cyber Stage back in the day. So, I was familiar in philosophy about how theatre and technology might complement each other and tell a compelling story to audiences. But the actual practice—the nuts and bolts of making it work on your computer—was never something I embraced easily.

The Apple Power Macintosh 6100… my first machine.

Fast forward almost thirty years. Add in the stress of the pandemic. Plus the wholesale loss of work for an entire industry of live performance creators. And the importance of understanding how technology and theatre can come together to create something new returned to my practice. But these days, there’s a whole new range of tools that are easily available. Resources that just weren’t available back in the nineties.

Nonetheless, when it came time to pivot to digital presentations, I’ll admit I was at a loss. Creature was supposed to be presented live at a BYOV on Ottawa St; specifically, I was going to present the show on the stage at the Laidlaw Memorial United Church. A one-person monologue about my obsession with the Sasquatch phenomenon, a critical aspect was supposed to be the intimate atmosphere of a storytelling performance. That was out the window with the pandemic. And it really wouldn’t translate well as a YouTube video. So what to do?

Pivot from in-person space (L) to YouTube (R)… uh, okay 😳

Enter my friend Luke Brown. Luke has long been a champion of this quirky piece. He shepherded its development while I was in the Theatre Aquarius Junction and, actually, had more confidence in it during the early stages than I did. But he’s also been prolifically exploring the use of soundscapes as part of his practice of digital storytelling. That got me thinking of how a big part of Creature was sound. Not just the use of sound but also sound as a theme. So, that’s where I started to explore my options. Bringing Luke onboard was a no brainer, of course. And, using resources like GarageBand and Audacity, he started playing around with the use of evocative sounds to accompany what would eventually become a series of monologues spoken by me about Bigfoot.

But something was still missing. I knew the Fringe would be broadcasting much of their digital programming via a YouTube channel when people tuned in. And I wanted to make use of visuals that weren’t simply a Fringe logo. But I also don’t know the first thing about video recording and moviemaking. But then I discovered iMovie (yes, I know, I’m late to party). This program (which is included on the Apple operating system) allowed me to add still pictures over my recorded monologue to create a slideshow of sorts. But, really, the best part is how easy it was. Literally, it was drag and drop and plug and play.

The magic of iMovie

And if there’s one thing I love, it’s nature photography. Seriously, I take more photos of the outdoors than I do of my kids. So, I had a lot of nature pics to choose from. The result of these photos, with Luke’s sounds, and my own monologue is the digital presentation of Creature premiering this week at the Hamilton Fringe.

I’ll be straight up here – I don’t know whether this will work. This digital pivot has all been an experiment. Last year, when Aaron and myself (re)did Conspiracy of Michael for the Fringe, it was a professionally shot 10 minute film. So, will a forty minute slideshow featuring my voice and a soundscape exploring the bizarre world of Sasquatch hook audiences?

Well, what do you believe?

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