Theatre During Lockdown
I am the Head Director of Canberra company Green Oak Theatre. We create and perform original theatre performances. Our first show was a musical, written by myself and a friend. It took us two years to write, and we were so excited to have a stellar cast and everything organised. It was about three weeks into rehearsals early in 2020 when Australia went into lockdown. We had never considered something like this could happen. We had ‘zoom rehearsals’ online for about two months, which we used to teach the songs. There was always lag so people couldn’t sing in time. It was really frustrating not talking to people in person and the band not being able to practice either. To keep everyone’s spirits up we would also have a weekly online games night, which was really fun. When restrictions started to ease I would invite two to five of the cast members over to my house and we would do blocking in my lounge room. We also used other backyards and lounges as rehearsal spaces until we were able to use our normal rehearsal spaces again. As we had to move our performance date two months back, we had to find a different theatre to use. We eventually found one, but due to capacity limits could only have 80 people in a 400-seat theatre, which was really hard for everyone. We live-streamed one of the performances to try and reach a wider audience. We still pulled off six performances with sold out shows and it was a really enjoyable (if somewhat stressful) experience.
Like everyone else, we thought COVID was done by 2021. We were organising our first original play, which we started rehearsals for in June 2021. We were about two months into rehearsal, ready to start running the show, when Canberra went into lockdown again. We did one read through of the script via zoom, and had a weekly games night, but we weren’t really able to do anything online. We organised a remote working bee to build the set. Myself and the set designer got together and delivered set pieces to cast members’ houses for them to put together. After three months of restrictions eased we started to have rehearsals with small groups in my garage until we were able to use a larger rehearsal space. It was really hard rehearsing in masks because people got out of breath from talking and moving a lot, and it was really hard for the actors to react off each other as they couldn’t see. It was also difficult when cast members had to miss rehearsals because they had to get tested for COVID. We had to push our show back two months and it wasn’t until three weeks before the show that we had a theatre organised. Thankfully we didn’t have to wear masks anymore and didn’t have audience limits.
We’re hoping our next show is a little less eventful!