By Meng Wei
“Finding things to do on the web that are creative, exciting, interesting and entertaining is not that easy,” says David Chantler, the founder and producing director of Trickster Theatre. “I think that our programs have been popular because they offer fun interactive online experiences.”
Trickster Theatre is a non-profit organization that has been bringing the fun of theatre and education to schools in Alberta for over 40 years. With 30 artists in their Artist-in-Schools residency program pre-pandemic, this program of Trickster’s was a major success.
Then there was COVID. With school closures and government budget cuts, Trickster had to make quick decisions to keep things afloat.
“In our residency program we pivoted to video, so instead of telling theatre-based stories, we switched to telling video-based stories.”
Within six months from the start of the pandemic, Trickster was able to make the pivot. Using greenscreens, cameras and microphones, the artists worked with the students to make all kinds of creative video stories remotely, with a few projects on-site as well.
Trickster also created a new online storytelling program. This became very popular and has been used in more than 250 classrooms around the province, with 21 artists now trained to deliver the program. Two other online curriculum based programs are also in development.
“If there is one highlight, it’s all of those stories that got created between the artists and the students,” David says. “The demand is there for teachers to try and find something that their students are going to enjoy that is based on virtual interaction.”
The pivot to video in the residency program was a big challenge. The artists had to be trained in videography and video editing and the company had to outfit itself technically with all the necessary equipment.
“It was a huge task and we’re very thankful that Calgary Arts Developnent and the other funders trusted we could pull it off—and we did—in the end we recovered about 60% of the season’s residency bookings and created brand new programs as well,” says David.
“We’re just piggybacking on that acceptance of new technology, and creating new programs that use the technology, so that puts us in a position where we have to keep paying attention to what’s being accepted.
“You know, the beauty of that is that when it goes back to us being able to be together, the best of those technologies will still be there. It’s been a heck of a challenging year, but at the same point, we have been quite successful at adapting to COVID.”