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Empty downtown streets in Calgary, Alta., on March 18, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The second wave of shutterings of theatres in Canada due to the coronavirus pandemic has been harder for many in the industry to swallow than the first.

Last week, performing arts companies were ordered to close once again to live, in-person audiences in B.C. The shock, anger and confusion expressed by artistic leaders in that province reminded me of the similar emotions that took place in Quebec’s theatre, dance and opera world when their second shutdown began in September.

Now, today, comes sad news out of Halifax.

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Neptune Theatre, the largest theatre company in the so-called “Atlantic bubble,” had planned to reopen tonight with A Christmas Carol, its first live show produced on stage to in-person audiences since March 13. As I was writing this newsletter, however, I got an e-mail informing me that Neptune had cancelled the holiday production’s run due to “rising cases of COVID-19 in our community.”

Will Alberta be the next province to have the rug again pulled out from under shows running to in-person audiences (with, of course, safety and physical distancing measures in place)? Its provincial government is holding a news conference later this afternoon on the subject of new restrictions – and it doesn’t look promising.

For this week’s newsletter, I had planned to highlight Mary’s Wedding, which is as I’m typing these words still officially set to open at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton on Nov. 28 to physically present audiences.

I love the idea behind this production: Stephen Massicotte’s much-produced First World War romance has received a new adaptation by the playwright Tai Amy Grauman that has transformed it into, according to the subtitle, “A Métis love story” – with Grauman and fellow Indigenous actor Todd Houseman set to star as Mary and Charlie. (I’ve seen many Canadian adaptations of plays before, but it’s rare to see an adaptation of a Canadian play.)

A spokesperson from the Citadel was honest, however, that Mary’s Wedding is “a little up in the air at the moment.”

Hopefully, whatever restrictions Alberta puts into place this afternoon will treat performing arts equally to the film and television industry – and, if sets remain open, rehearsal and the capturing or livestreaming of performance remains permitted as well. Then, Mary’s Wedding might at least still be able to filmed for streaming the way the Citadel’s previous pandemic production A Brimful of Asha was. (The latter is still streaming until Nov. 30, but only available to Albertans.)

This is all that I’ve heard from the performing arts industry: They don’t want to stay open if it is no longer safe, only see restrictions be applied fairly and consistently and based on public health concerns rather than which industries have the most lobbying power.

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With live, in-person theatre disappearing once again across the country, theatregoers must adapt back to the world of livestreams. The good news is that the second wave of livestreams is much more professionally produced than the hastily put together ones from the spring. If you tuned out due to Zoom fatigue in May, I suggest trying again.

Factory Theatre’s acts of faith – which I reviewed last week – is a good example of how the art form is evolving and gaining in production values. It streams for free (advance registration required) for a second weekend starting Thursday.

Here are three other streaming options this week that you’ll have to pay for, but seem worth it.

From Vancouver: Pathetic Fallacy, created by the Chop and presented by Rumble Theatre.

The avant-garde director Anita Rochon created this show a couple of years in an attempt to devise “a live touring work that reduces climate impact by putting no performer ‘on tour’.” It has a rotating cast of local performers who receive “all their staging instructions live, standing in front of a very temperamental broadcast media green screen.” The multi-talented Jonathon Young (Betroffenheit) is the first to give it a try this week in a run that goes from Nov. 25 to 29.

From Toronto: Sibs, Tarragon Acoustic.

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On Sunday, Tarragon Theatre uploads its latest audio play, an adaptation of a hit show about sibling rivalry created and performed by Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt, to its website, where it will be available for two weeks. Kate Taylor gave the stage version of Sibs a four-star review back in 2000 – and Michael Posner interviewed its co-creators that same year.

From Montreal: L’avalée des avalés, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde

Réjean Ducharme’s 1966 debut – a dark coming-of-age novel which couldn’t find a publisher in Quebec, but then was nominated for the prestigious prix Goncourt after being published in France – gets the page-to-stage treatment from TNM artistic director Lorraine Pintal and livestreams from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17. While the book is widely taught in French in Canada, it was out of print for decades in English until this fall – when Swallowed, a brand-new translation by Madeleine Stratford, came out on Esplanade Books, the fiction imprint of Véhicule Press.

See individual theatre company websites for pricing and times.

Keep up to date with the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

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