It's been a breakout year for teleconferencing program Zoom, which has entrenched itself in people's professional and personal lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And now, it's becoming reflected in our entertainment.
Between Shifts Theatre Company recently released six plays on YouTube as part of The Zoom Chronicles, which company co-founder and artistic director Kathy Daniels described as a shift for the group. Between Shifts posted a play per day between July 8 and 13.
"Don't get me wrong, The Zoom Chronicles are not live theatre per se —it's a completely different medium — but it's one that has been very interesting to explore," she said.
After putting out a call for submissions, Between Shifts received works from two local playwrights, as well as from two based in Whistler and one from Vancouver. Of the eight total submissions received, the company opted to produce six.
"There was a time crunch and we couldn't get the last two in," she said. "All eight were really good. We originally decided we were only going to do four, and then they were just so good that we couldn't decide."
Daniels said the reason for the campaign was twofold: first to keep Between Shifts' profile in the public mind, but also to keep it participants writing and active even during a global pandemic.
The call for Zoom-based productions was a pivot from the company's plan to do an evening of one-act plays, live on stage, this year. The content is so specific, Daniels said, that these productions generally couldn't be expanded out to a live setting.
"They're really written for Zoom, and what I would like to do is approach those playwrights and ask them to write for us for the stage, for sure," she said. "There's one there that maybe could be adapted to the stage, but the rest are really Zoom specific."
Daniels, who both acts and directs in the series, said there were some bumps in the roads in early rehearsals as performers verbally stumbled over one another, while technical difficulties abounded with both frozen screens and muffled sound. Eventually, though, things worked out.
There were production-specific challenges to overcome as well.
"It's a flatter dimension, if you will, in some ways because you just don't get that interaction specifically," she said. "Everybody's in their own bubble, and it is difficult because everyone's trying to act off each other but you're not in the same room. You're miles away from each other."
The distance, however, ended up being as much of a pro as a con, Daniels said, as Between Shifts reenlisted some former members who had since left the Sea to Sky and are now based in Tofino.
In the play Daniels directed, Crown of Thorns by Joseph T. Leander (the pen name of board member Peter Slade), there are actors from Vancouver and Whistler.
"We're all acting together and it's not costing anybody any money or a carbon footprint to do it. We're all on the screen together," she said. "But it's different. It's super different."
While all plays incorporated Zoom creatively, she said Who's Zooming Who by Janice Carroll proved to be one of the most technical productions to bring to life.
"People go in and out of rooms, lights go off, and screens go dark and come back on again," she said. "She brought in some technical help to help her with that."
Another play, Self Help on Halloween by Karen and Levi McLeod, required shots of kids coming to the door and trick or treating with pandemic precautions still in effect.
To see all the plays, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4S70CwIDk_mmSDa_V6wRjQ