Drama teacher comes up with pandemic plan for high school actors in Nelson, B.C.

·2 min read

Like a theatre troupe from Shakespeare's time, a company of Nelson students is moving from place to place to sing and act. They hail from LV Rogers High School, where drama teacher Robyn Sheppard came up with the unique way to have them perform, yet stay safe in the time of a pandemic: backyard theatre. "Our audiences are socially distanced, they are in backyards and balconies and our students perform in their yard," she said. Sheppard says many of the students had multiple indoor shows cancelled last spring and for some this may be their last chance to perform together in high school. "They were very upset, so these are my dedicated theatre students and I had to be innovative."

Bob Keating/CBC
Bob Keating/CBC

Sheppard says that is how a Taste of Class/Backyard Theatre was born. The students arrive on foot at a designated home and remain masked until show time.

They then take to the usually grassy stage and perform songs, monologues and snippets of plays for an outdoor audience.

Seventeen-year-old Wynne McGrath sings a solo from Amélie, the musical, and performs a scene from a period piece. "Just because a world wide pandemic happens doesn't mean it's going to stop me from having fun with my friends and telling stories," she said.

Fellow teenage thespian Luther Perry says he had four productions cancelled last semester and says Backyard Theatre is a way to do what he is passionate about. "I love expressing myself on stage," Perry says. "We get to perform for people who watch because they love drama, they miss it."

Bob Keating/CBC
Bob Keating/CBC

Bill Lynch was one of the first Nelson residents to host the students outside his sprawling Nelson heritage home with two elevated decks for the audience. "I did this because it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to get a gang of us together and watch live theatre, and do it in a safe location," said Lynch. "We are all missing the arts." For the first weekend of Backyard Theatre it was relatively mild outside and the performances warmly received.

The students involved have another run of shows this weekend from Friday to Sunday. All the money they raise is going to help the Capitol Theatre in Nelson which has been closed for months.