computer displaying text “The Stream You Step In” University Players has commissioned four new works by Canadian playwrights for performance via Zoom in November.

Theatre company to livestream new Canadian works

Local restrictions may have closed Essex Hall Theatre for the time being, but the team at University Players has chosen an innovative solution to the problem of performance during a pandemic.

Partnering with Outside the March, an immersive theatre company based in Toronto, the 62nd season promises audiences an experience that brings live performances to them. Graduating students of the BFA acting program will present four new Canadian works via Zoom.

One of the hallmarks of University Players’ work is partnership with professionals in the theatre industry. The troupe has commissioned playwrights David Yee, Elena Eli Belyea, Karen Hines, and Marcus Youssef to create new works for the project, and directors Sébastien Heins, Kim McLeod, and Griffin McInnes will direct casts in these new works, along with Outside the March’s artistic director Mitchell Cushman, creative curator on the project.

Titled “The Stream You Step In,” this online theatre event draws inspiration from the words of ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “You can never step in the same stream twice.” In the act of stepping into it, you change the stream itself and in return, you are forever changed by your experience.

In this case, the stream isn’t a river of water, but performance. The festival will also serve as research material for faculty and students who will explore the challenges faced in making new work and engaging audiences during the current crisis. Drama professor Michelle MacArthur will guide a research team tasked with analysis of the creative process and audience experience through funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Cushman says that the work of Outside the March has never been more relevant.

“We are excited to explore all of the ways in which an online platform like Zoom can allow audiences a chance to have a two-way, implicated, intimate experience with these brand new works of theatre,” he says. “These are four of Canada’s most exciting and innovative playwrights — and the perfect voices to chronicle and make sense of these unparalleled times we are all living through.”

University Players will perform “The Stream You Step In” over two weekends: Nov. 5 to 8 and 19 to 22. Tickets to each double-feature performance are $20 and will be available through the online box office.

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—Kristen Siapas