Had anyone told me a year ago that I would be acting to my computer screen in my basement bedroom, I probably would have thought they were absolutely out of their mind. I would have said, “That’s not theatre,” or “People will lose interest,” or simply “Why?” If the past couple months as Museum Theatre Intern for MONOVA has taught me anything, it’s that if there is a challenge, embrace it.
Originally, the plan for my Young Canada Works (YCW) internship was to start rehearsing and revising the museum’s new streetcar production, Riding with Change: Streetcar Stories on the North Shore, with museum theatre director Jen Boyes-Manseau. Rehearsing over Zoom to begin with, but soon transitioning to in-person delivery.
Well, as we all know, the pandemic has its own plans and Streetcar 153 is still settling in to its new home in the soon-to-be-opened Museum of North Vancouver. Quickly, we realized we were going to have to try creating a live virtual version of the production if we wanted people to experience the streetcar’s stories come spring.
Creating Digital Theatre
So off we went. I sat in front of my computer in East Van and Jen sat in front of hers in Quebec. This cross-country collaboration included adapting the script for virtual performance and adding new stories to the streetcar piece using resources found in the Archives. It wasn’t easy, encountering hurtles like how do we engage people? How to we avoid Zoom fatigue? How do we keep it theatrical?
Keeping the audience active meant we had to keep up the personal interaction between actor-interpreter and audience. We achieved this by using the Zoom meeting mode, rather than lecture style, and by asking the audience questions they can respond to visually. During the performance I can still see all audience members. Typing in the chat box is another form of fun interaction we are experimenting with.
Transforming my 4′ by 5′ “stage” with a green screen sets us in front of Streetcar 153. Quick costume changes bring several North Shore citizens to life. Dodging dressers and desks as I take my off-screen exits and entrances is no easy task and always keeps me on my toes!
The Streetcar 153 and its Riders
Consistently, I’ve been surprised and intrigued by the history on the North Shore—particularly with the long Chilean and Hawaiian ancestry within the North Vancouver community. I wish we could share every story we come across, but people will get a few favourites through Riding with Change: Streetcar Stories on the North Shore.
If you come “on board” you’ll meet Streetcar Conductor Mr. J.D. Jones, and hear about notable community members like Lonsdale grocery store owner, Lim Gong. Maybe, just maybe, Streetcar 153 will have a thing or two to say!
Teen Spring Break Camp
What’s next? Jen Boyes-Manseau, Education Programmer Carol Ballard and I are working on adapting and adding new voices to a story-filled Walk of the Shipyards and planning a spring break camp for teens. Building on this theme of change, we will use theatre to connect youth to the stories in the museum with their own personal experiences. Watch for more details to be released soon!
This internship has pushed me to adapt as an artist and experiment in ways I wouldn’t have tried before the pandemic. Seeing many peers in the arts and culture sector try to navigate these ever changing waters this past year has been difficult. It’s also been really inspiring. It leads to moments of innovation. Moments in the chaos where you stop and go, “Wow, this is something special. Something new.”
– Chantal Gallant, 3 February 2021
If you want to participate in our new zoomified version of Riding with Change: Streetcar Stories on the North Shore, we are offering two performances on Family Day weekend on February 14 and 15. Join Chantal Gallant for a sneak preview of the kind of museum theatre programs we will be offering live and in person in the new Museum when it opens. Visit our Events page for more details and registration.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.