So many of us spent so much time doing theatre, entertaining people, being creative, that when the pandemic hit it was like going cold turkey from life. When I asked people to join me in this project they didn’t say yes, they said YES!!!! It just shows just how much people actors and designers were missing being part of something fun and artistic. My goal in getting this together was to be able to offer the volunteers and patrons of the Ottawa Little Theatre some entertainment. It was a way to say we are still thinking about our friends and audiences and how important they are in our lives.
The story of Behind the Beyond began for me back before 2012. We were preparing to celebrate the 100th Season of the Ottawa Little Theatre and I was part of the Season Planning Committee. We surveyed around 100 plays from our past with the idea of doing one play to represent each decade of our theatre. It was a great success and we had 10 dynamite productions. In reading plays from our first decade, 1912-21, I saw that we had done a production of a Stephen Leacock piece called Behind the Beyond. It was an essay which outlined and poked fun at a 19th century ‘problem play’ as well as the actors who presented it. I loved the essay and adapted it for stage. As a one act play it didn’t fit into our season but the Season Committee and the Board asked if I would direct it as the Ottawa Little Theatre entry into the Eastern Ontario Drama League’s One Act Play Festival. It was our offering as part of the 100th Season celebrations.
I had decided to go with arranging the action to appear to be an academic type person (someone like Leacock) outlining the action of the play with segments of the story acted out by the cast. The Narrator would comment on the action as the play went on. In my adaptation all the words were Leacock’s. His gentle satire and poking fun at the characters (and actors) needed no other commentary. We had great success with the entry winning 5 awards for Best Costume Design, Best Set Design, Best actor for our Narrator, Best Director and Best Production. The last award is actually called the Ottawa Little Theatre Award for Best Production. So we brought the OLT trophy back home for our 100th Season.
As an aside, during the season our General Manager had been digging into the Ottawa Little Theatre files at the Archives of Canada and had unearthed the original adaptation of the piece. In that version a theatre critic attends a production of the play accompanied by two young women that he is trying to impress. The action happens on stage but is interspersed with comments from these three which bring out the elements of the original piece. Leacock wrote Behind the Beyond in 1913 and this adaptation was performed later that year by the newly minted Ottawa Drama League. I am not aware if Leacock ever knew of, or saw the script for the adaptation of his work.
Back to 2020. After a couple of months of watching productions from Stratford, The National Theater in London England and The Globe Theatre in London, I became aware that some groups were trying to have a theatre experience by producing plays using Zoom. After having seen a few I thought that Behind the Beyond could be adapted for that platform the same way we had adapted it for stage. And so, we come to the incredibly talented group who jumped at the chance to try something new. It is not live theatre and will never replace live theatre. It is a bit more like film but it really is done by stage actors and is a commentary on what we would call a ‘period piece’.
I hope that our Ottawa Little Theatre community, and others from far and wide who come across this offering will enjoy what we have produced. We all hope for the day when we can all get in a room, large or small and have the lights go up on a live performance.
Thanks for watching our production of Behind the Beyond.
Cast (in order of appearance)
Narrator – Paul Williamson
Sir John Trevor – Mike Kennedy
Valet/Messenger/Butler/ Theatre Manager – Josh Kemp
Lady Cicely – Amy Quinn-O’Brien
Jack Harding – Seamus O’Brien
French Maid/English Maid – Amy Kennedy
Mrs. Margaret Harding – Sarah Hearn
Director – Brian Cano
Technical Producer/Animator – Mike Thompson
Stage Manager and Director Wrangler – Val Bogan
Award Winning Costume Designer – Jeanne Gauthier
Let us know what you think!