The curtain goes back up on local theatre in Moncton, after it was brought down by pandemic

·4 min read
Mike Granville is the director of Hairy Tease Productions in Moncton.  The theatre company is in rehearsals for the Norm Foster play, Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun.   (Kate Letterick/CBC News - image credit)
Mike Granville is the director of Hairy Tease Productions in Moncton. The theatre company is in rehearsals for the Norm Foster play, Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun. (Kate Letterick/CBC News - image credit)

For the last year and a half, the stage has been dark and silent for Moncton's amateur theatre company, Hairy Tease Productions.

Since 2004, Hairy Tease had been producing two plays a year, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the curtain down.

Director Mike Granville said he's heard from a lot of people clamouring for a return to live theatre, and Hairy Tease is now in rehearsals with a new show.

"We're just taking a leap and hoping that we land on our feet at the end of May," Granville said. "If conditions change we could be cancelled in a heartbeat."

The company is planning eight performances of Norm Foster's play, Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun at Theatre L'Escaouette, a 200 seat blackbox theatre.

Hairy Tease Productions usually has sets built, like this one for The Crazy Time in November of 2018.  Their newest production is much more streamlined.
Hairy Tease Productions usually has sets built, like this one for The Crazy Time in November of 2018. Their newest production is much more streamlined.(Submitted/Hairy Tease Productions Facebook)

Even with dozens of productions under their belt, this show will be unlike any other because of the many restrictions and precautions required to perform for an audience during a pandemic.

"No props can be passed back and forth so if we need a prop - we need to have two props, one that is brought on and another one that is taken off and they can't be touched," he said.

Actors have to be two metres apart, and they must remain four metres from the first row. Refreshments can't be sold, there won't be an intermission, and no printed programs will be available.

"I didn't know that there were that many challenges and that many protocols that have to apply to live theatre right across the country. This isn't just in Moncton, this is everywhere," Granville said.

The advantage to this particular production is that Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun doesn't need a formal set, just three pools of light for the actors.

"So with just some curtains and a few props it's going to be very easy to stage and that makes our job quite a bit easier rather than to go into the detailed sets that we usually make," he said.

The Norm Foster play, published in 2004, tells the story of an intellectually challenged man with a great sense of humour named Robert, who meets Holly, a young woman whose unexpected pregnancy has knocked her off her feet. Their two worlds collide, and they develop a friendship.

Real life couple Matt Kinney and Robyn Esson play Robert and Holly.

Matt Kinney and Robyn Esson play Robert and Holly in the play.  They both feel audiences are ready for some live theatre.
Matt Kinney and Robyn Esson play Robert and Holly in the play. They both feel audiences are ready for some live theatre.(Kate Letterick/CBC News )

The fact that they're in the same bubble outside the theatre has been an advantage said Kinney, but there are still challenges such as wearing a mask during rehearsals.

"You don't realize how much you lose by not being able to see a scene partner's face or be able to use your own face to get your emotion across the same way you would normally so just little things like that."

Esson feels it's added a layer of complexity to her acting.

"Trying to take on a character and trying to know your lines and the blocking and to have to keep the distance and not touch the prop when it's technically passed to you," she said.

But Esson and Kinney agree, people are longing to get out and return to live theatre.

"I think people are just looking forward to having a space to feel like a community again and being able to be on stage and tell that story - I'm so excited," Esson said.

Liam McNamara has acted in a number of productions with Hairy Tease Productions. He was more than ready to return to the stage.
Liam McNamara has acted in a number of productions with Hairy Tease Productions. He was more than ready to return to the stage. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Liam McNamara, who has performed in about ten shows, can't wait to return to the stage, and he hopes audiences feel the same way.

"There's just a tactile sensation of being in a theatre, dark, lights, people delivering you a performance," he said. "There's energy that you just don't get from a Netflix show."

Granville hopes people feel that excitement when the curtain rises in May, and that it translates to bums in seats for the eight shows.

"People had enough TV I think," he laughed. "I think people want to get out and sit in a live theatre, socially distanced of course, but I think they really want to have the real experience."