Brian Fidler, Guild artistic director, sits in one of the newly constructed seating areas at the Guild Hall in Whitehorse on Aug. 7. The theatre is kicking off its 2020-2021 season with its ‘Round Back outdoor performance series.

The show will go on at Whitehorse’s Guild Hall

Guild Hall readies for its ‘Round Back series

The show must go on.

And at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek, it will be ‘Round Back.

The local theatre group is getting set to kick off its 2020-2021 season with its ‘Round Back outdoor performance series behind the hall.

The series marks a different direction in the Guild’s lineup of performances for the year which typically sees a list of four or five plays staged throughout the season — fall to spring — along with a few other traditions like the annual haunted house and providing a space for other performances such as comedy.

As with many events in March and April, the 2019-2020 season came to an abrupt end due to COVID-19 before the final play of the season, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play could be staged. The crew was into rehearsals when the pandemic cancelled the show.

And that’s where the ‘Round Back series picks up.

On Aug. 13, the series will open with a play reading from Mr. Burns.

As Guild artistic director Brian Fidler said in an Aug. 7 interview at the new outdoor performance site, when they began looking at the possibility of a 2020-2021 season, he wanted to find a way to present Mr. Burns, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world following a major global catastrophe.

Brandon Wicke, Guild general manager, left, and Brian Fidler, Guild artistic director, discuss the outdoor seating at the Guild Hall in Whitehorse on Aug. 10, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Fidler admits the final rehearsals for the show in the spring were “a little eerie” as lock-downs and cancellations due to COVID-19 became reality across the country.

With restrictions now being gradually lifted and events happening in new ways, like the ‘Round Back series, Fidler said he’s pleased the Guild can present a play reading for the show.

“It feels like closure,” he said, adding it is also a great way to launch a new series that will run until Oct. 3.

The series features a line up of local performers, theatrical groups, musicians and more taking to the small outdoor stage in front of the Guild’s carpentry shop for up to three evenings each week behind the hall on 14th Avenue.

In a circle facing the stage are 12 small audience “islands” that will provide space for up to 30. Each platform, complete with a small roof covering, provides seating for between one and four guests to sit together and are spaced to allow for proper distancing.

As Fidler explained, a portion of the ‘Round Back space had been set to serve as a venue for Act 1 of Mr. Burns. When things shut down in the spring, it was a good time to do a more extensive clean up of the site. When restrictions began being lifted, thoughts turned to it as a potential spot for performances that would meet the guidelines of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“We were already thinking of this as a venue,” Fidler said, adding that during the spring cleanup there were many old stage props and other pieces found and he began thinking of how they could be used to create some sort of outdoor venue that would feature individual pieces for two or three audience members from the same social bubble to sit together while being spaced from others.

“Everything was just scattered around,” he said, noting he took his concept to carpenter Al Loewen, who’s built a number of Guild sets to life over the years.

Loewen was able to once again take an idea and bring it to life.

Brian Fidler, Guild artistic director, works on the outdoors seating area at the Guild Hall in Whitehorse on Aug. 10, 2020.(Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

“He built these crazy market stalls,” Fidler said.

Old siding, stage props — a huge lollipop and a boat among others — help make up the new audience islands with spacing from the stage and other audience islands.

“We just tried to make use of everything,” Fidler said.

With an approved space for hosting performances, Guild officials set to work on a much different season and invited others to be part of it.

Fidler pointed out COVID-19 has greatly reduced the number of potential performance spaces and this provides an opportunity.

The result is a lineup that along with the Mr. Burns play reading, will include musical performance by Ryan McNally, Claire Ness, Cafe des Voix and Blues Cargo; comedy nights featuring local comedians; storytelling and knowledge sharing with Gwaandak Theatre, theatrical performance by Velvet Antler Productions, Yukon Theatre for Young People, and Brandon Wicke’s Sigil Theatre.

“There’s something for everyone this season,” he said.

With tickets limited to 30 that must be ordered online at yukontickets.com due to COVID-19, Fidler said there’s been a lot of interest with tickets going fast for the first performances.

As Fidler gets set for the new outdoor season, he’s also looking ahead to going back inside after the ‘Round Back series wraps up.

What that will look like will depend on the restrictions in place. If restrictions remain as they are currently, Fidler envisions possibly taking out the risers in the theatre in favour of cabaret-style seating that would allow for distancing among the audience.

There would also likely be smaller productions to meet requirements.

If restrictions are tightened up and the Guild is unable to host any indoor performances, Fiddler said there are possibilities for creating online content as the Guild continues its efforts to bring community theatre to Whitehorse.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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