On March 30 we got an email from the National Arts Centre: we had been chosen to participate in their #CanadaPerforms program, offering us support for our live stream presentation of Felicity Falls. After the disappointment of having to postpone the opening of our new show, Hat Trick, having a lot of other bookings cancelled, and not knowing when we’ll be able to do live performances or workshops again, this was welcome news. Our live stream was scheduled for April 6. We had a week to get ready.
We knew the show. We’ve been performing Felicity Falls for years, since our own children were little. But doing the show for a camera instead of a live audience involved a lot of questions. Where should we set it up? What kind of camera? How can we manage to show the whole set in a wide shot and other scenes in closeup without anyone to work the camera? And would the joy and humour of the live presentations work on video?
We decided to set up a studio in our basement. Our basement is a busy place. A lot of props, toys, fabric, tools and other supplies are stored there. Things don’t always get put away when we are busy planning a new show. Luckily, we had spent the first few “social distancing” weeks organizing things. It still looks pretty crowded, but at least we now know where everything is. And there’s now some floor space—room for a pared down version of the Felicity Falls set at one end of Kathy’s side of the basement, and for lights, camera, computer, monitor and recorder at the other end. And in between, we set up a stool that we could sit on, just the right height for head and shoulder shots (which we use for narrations and short one or two puppet scenes), and a step ladder closer to the camera for extreme close-ups (when we want to zoom into the Rabbits’ tiny kitchen).
Thanks to a grant from the City of Ottawa, we had recently acquired new video equipment. In the picture you can see our camera (a Sony A6500) and our new monitor/recorder. (It’s a Atomos Ninja V, since you asked!)
We spent a few hours every day in our new studio. We had to figure out how each scene would be seen on camera. We had to change our blocking. We made new plans for where we would stand, and how we would hold the puppets. This meant that the puppets and props had to be in different places, so that they were easy to pick up and keep track of in their new places.
When the big day arrived, we were a little nervous. But friendly comments and names started to trickle in. People were watching! More than 200 people watched the live stream, and since then, there have been so many views, likes, loves and comments that we felt that we actually did connect with people. It was fun.
We still miss those smiling faces, but we enjoyed learning about this new medium. It was another chance for us to work—and play —together. And in this Brave New World (to quote our friend William Shakespeare), who knows what opportunities this might lead to?