Newfoundland and Labrador is filled with spectacular scenery, from dramatic, sweeping coastal views as far as the eye can see, to verdant valleys and meadows and beautiful barren landscapes. It truly is a photographer’s paradise.
How lucky, then, for a group like Perchance Theatre to have all this in their own backyard. The company, which produces and presents Shakespeare and other classical works, usually at their outdoor Elizabethan-style theatre in Cupids, found themselves in a pickle when the pandemic put the brakes on their 2020 summer season. So what do you do when crowds can’t come together to enjoy the Bard’s classics? You bring the show to them through the wonders of technology.
The line “All the world’s a stage” is one that Perchance has taken quite literally. Through “The Power of One” video series, they’ve been busy filming local artists performing Shakespeare’s monologues in some of the most beautiful locations around the province. The 40-week project kicked off this summer and will eventually capture monologues from every Shakespeare play in the Canon.
“In this new era of social distancing, this project exemplifies how one person, one soliloquy, one moment, can make a difference,” says Danielle Irvine, Artistic Director of Perchance.
While the project features a number of extraordinary talents, the real star of the show is the province itself, filmed in all its glory. The monologues invoke powerful imagery, which pairs perfectly with the dramatic landscapes in which they’re filmed.
“Our first video launched from our stage starred one of our nation’s beloved performers, Greg Malone, as Jaques from As You Like It, speaking from the achingly empty theatre,” Irvine says. Other performances include Santiago Guzmán (Pericles), filmed among the towering cliffs of Dungeon Provincial Park; Alan Doyle (Henry V) at Red Cliff Radar Station; Rhona Buchan (King John), filmed among the vast, wild barrens at “Top of the World” near the head of Bay d’Espoir; Elizabeth Hicks (The Merchant of Venice), performing atop the Supreme Court building in downtown St. John’s; and Greg House (The Two Gentleman of Verona), overlooking the scenic vista of Corner Brook, to name just a few.
“A lot of work goes into the location selection. It needs to fit perfectly with the monologue. There is a lot of imagery using the ocean, the rocks, the heights overlooking the city, the lush greens of the forest,” says Laura Bruijns, the project’s logistics coordinator. In addition to Irvine and Bruijns, other members of the production team include Jamie Skidmore, editor and director of photography; Tom Cochrane, director of photography, west coast; Erika Squires, stage manager; Dr. Michael Nolan, text consultant; and Dale Jarvis, social media manager.
“If audience members fall in love with a location, they can find it on our interactive map on our website – hopefully encouraging the curious to further explore the hidden treasured spaces of our home,” Irvine adds.
All of the rehearsals for the monologues were conducted via Zoom, with costume pieces coming from people’s own closets. Perchance is filming 41 monologues in total, releasing a teaser trailer on Fridays and launching a new video every Tuesday morning. By releasing them in this way, Bruijns says, they help keep Perchance on people’s radars “and bring our viewers right into the spring of next year, just before we launch our 2021 season.”
The project is ambitious, powerful, moving and something that brings joy and happy anticipation during the pandemic as people wait to see who will be featured next, and where.
“We’ve had a number of people tell us they really look forward to Tuesday to see what we’re up to,” Bruijns says.
Perchance hopes to return to their Cupids stage in 2021.