Festival offers a peek into theatre's future

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While festival after festival has been cancelled this year because of the pandemic, the Festival of Live Digital Art isn’t one of them —in fact, this is thetypeof scenariofor whichorganizers have been preparingsince it started three years ago.

We’ve been kind of working away at thinkingabouthow digital’s going to impact, and already is impacting, the way we think about theatre: how we meet, how we rehearse, how we create,”explained FOLDA co-creator Sarah Garton Stanley, who first got involved with digital theatre in 2013 with company SpiderWebShow.

The festival, which starts Wednesday and runs throughSaturday,willfeature a number oflive-streamed performances,including “A Reason to Gather,” “May I Take Your Arm” by Red Dress Collective, and “Field Notes from the Future,” which will be live-streamed by Toronto’s Luminato Festival as well.

Thefestival, admission for which is by donation,will also be a live performance by renowned musicianIskwe (June 13), and Miwa Matreyek’s “Myth and Infrastructure” (June 10) and “Infinitely Yours” (June 13), which combine shadow puppets, music and animation.


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Stanley, who is the associateartisticdirector of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre,is co-curating a series of “Green Room” conversations centred around the climate crisis. She became interested in the role technology could playwhen she accepted that job seven years ago.

Technology and the digital world offer so many tools to improve the ways in which stories can get told or created,”she explained over the phone.

For me at the time, I was thinking about it from a dramaturgical perspective, which is how is this connecting with what theatres going to be, but also thinking about how we can offer ways to artists to make work more efficiently, less costly ways, less personal cost, and ultimately the environment. It was an organic outcome of me being asked to work in Ottawa.”

In fact, she was in Vancouver preparing for a “big production” at the Arts Club there, with another at the NAC shortly after, when the pandemic locked the country down.

Just like that, in-person gatherings for performances suddenly stopped.

This year, the change is like we stepped through a portal,and for the most part, every show is happening from someone’s living room and being broadcast to someone else’s living room, and these are all theatre people doing that,”she said.“And these are largely theatre audiences receiving that. So the contract under these circumstances has been altered, yet we still want to feel like it’s a gathering.”

Even though it will carry on remotely, there is a positive to be found it that, too:being online means a wider range of people will be able to connect and be involved.

We’ve got great ambition for FOLDA,”Stanley said.“We really hope it will reach a broad, broad spectrum of people, not just in Ontario, not just in Canada, but abroad as well.”

To see the schedule of events and detailed descriptions about them, go to www.folda.ca .