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2020: Central Goes to Radio

THE CENTRE FOR PERFORMING AND VISUAL ARTS AT CENTRAL MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL
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Ten Nightmares Before Christmas | Radio productions by PVA Theatre Arts Program

Radio plays are available for listening now!

Here in The Performing & Visual Arts program at Central, we mount four mainstage productions each year and collaborate with artists outside of our teaching staff to give students the most opportunity and variety we can offer! If 2020-2021 was like any other year we would have continued this tradition, but it became increasingly clear that a return to what we have done in the past would not be an option and it was time to get creatively inspired. As we went into the summer months, questions bubbled in our heads; will there be production next year? Will we be able to bring in guest artists? Is there a safe way to work with students? What will theatre look like next year? Will there be in-person classes in the Fall?

Returning to school was walking into a wind storm on shaky ground. When the concept of radio theatre was suggested by Mr. Mulloy, it was the perfect option to suit our circumstances and challenge our students’ potential. For PVA’s newest teacher, Lee Lancaster, radio brings warm feelings of nostalgia. He still holds on to memories of listening to old reruns of Superman and other classic radio shows with his Mom and Dad in their living room. For Ms. Crimmins, Radio Theatre was a way to engage with long walks and bike rides throughout the pandemic months, letting the stories propel her forward. Technical Director Len Simon remembers growing up; it was a tradition for his family to gather around the radio every Christmas morning to listen to the story of The Littlest Angel. Listening to that story has always been a favourite family memory. Radio Theatre romantically whisks us away to another time, a time of simplicity, thrill, innocence and joy.

For us in PVA Theatre Arts, Radio Theatre presented itself as a safe format for our COVID reality. We felt we could explore new venues of the theatrical by assembling small groups of students to work with microphones, sound booths, sound technicians, foley artists and the directing team. Oh – and sanitizer. So much sanitizer. This was a new art form for the directing team to learn, and we have learned that when something is new, it always helps to look to our experienced neighbours and ask for guidance. We turned to 6 Degrees Music and Sound and the talented Christian Goutsis for their guidance! And boy, did they deliver!

“For us in PVA Theatre Arts, radio theatre presented itself as a safe format for our COVID reality.”

Together, we found ways of creating rich soundscapes to accompany the classic scripts that each group had chosen for their collection. Christian advised us how to focus on specific skills particular to the voice actor. He would listen to each recording and enrich our work with his feedback and encouragement. He listened to all of the live recorded sound effects created by our Sound Foley teams and helped them make to adjustments so that the actor’s work would be supported by an intricate soundscape that draws the listening ear further inside the stories.

Our Technical Theatre program, led by Mr. Len Simon, built sound isolation booths for recording. These 3×6 spaces (sanitized between uses!) started to feel like home to our actors for 2.5 months. No longer did our performers have to wait in the wings for their cue to take the stage. Here, they were always “on stage” and visible while they experimented with new skills, laughed at each other through the plexi-glass, or whispered scary things into the microphones so only those on headset could hear. In hindsight, we were always much closer together while remaining physically apart during our rehearsals and recordings. Our Sound Foley Artists learned to creatively problem solve through discovering that water bottles sound like ocean waves, and dice in a glass sounds like ice cubes in a cocktail, and a person’s own breathing sounds like the wind howling. Our Sound Technicians and Production Assistants supported each group by finding music and effects to layer into the soundscapes and they worked tirelessly between rehearsals to get the sound levels just right for the listening ear. After all groups finished their final recordings just a day before students were sent back to at-home learning, our Production Assistants continued to edit and frame the recordings in post-production and meticulously worked for hours on the most intricate of details. The directing team can confidently say, without them, we would have no Radio Theatre productions for you to enjoy.

We hope that the audience enjoys our Radio Theatre production, The 10 Nightmares Before Christmas and discovers something fresh about using conventions of the past to create in the future. We hope we have channeled the spirit of the golden age of radio and injected it with a youth and vibrancy of 2020 that makes it a true joy to tune in to. But, not too joyful, because these stories are thrillers after all.

We thank you for your support these past months, and wish you a happy holiday and gleeful end to the year 2020.

Sincerely,

Lee Lancaster, Len Simon, and Michelle Crimmins

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