There’s more than one way to work around a pandemic. Just ask the Driftwood Players.
The longstanding Sunshine Coast theatre troupe had been accustomed to mounting a couple of productions a year, mostly at Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons. COVID-19 protocols put an end to that.
In May 2020, company members responded by creating a live, four-performance production of the play Babel Rap online. But why stop there? This year, with still no way of knowing when theatres like the Playhouse can fill up with audiences again, Driftwood Players are leaping into a feature-length film.
It’s Spoon River, based on a century-old collection of free-verse poems by American writer Edgar Lee Masters. It contains hundreds of brief narratives – reminiscences, soliloquies, and epitaphs – written in the voices of various memorable characters living in the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.
The successful 1960s Broadway play Spoon River was based on Masters’ verses. Driftwood’s Troy Demmitt drew from both that production and the original anthology to compose a script with more than 30 roles. The movie will feature a succession of costumed actors speaking directly to camera for just a minute or two each.
Demmitt told Coast Reporter that the film will unfold in four sections, each expressing one of the themes that he saw emerging from Masters’ work. “The first theme is, ‘Life is not fair,’” said Demmitt. “Life is led by fate; we have little control. The second theme deals with the undeveloped life. It’s unfulfilled… Life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it might.”
The third theme is, “Sex is a curse of life.” That debatable view is expressed by a succession of couples who lament about their lives together. “We hear of all kinds of infidelities, on both sides,” Demmitt said. “The secrets come out.”
But the film will end on a series of positive notes, Demmitt said, summing up the fourth theme as, “When accepted, life is good.”
Director Mac Dodge, who also plays an on-camera role, said in an interview that the brief screen time for each actor motivated them to delve deeply into their parts. “All the performers got excited about creating the character,” Dodge said. “That’s their theatre chops coming out. They’ve been really engaged.”
Under Dodge’s direction, actors spent the last half of April individually recording their brief monologues on the Heritage Playhouse stage, with videography by Murray Peterson, and lighting design by Billie Carroll. Pat Forst, Inge Holvik, and Leigh Mart have put together a music track. All the pieces will be assembled by editor Brittany Broderson, of Eastlink Community TV.
“I’m pleased that we have Brittany because I know she’ll bring something to the table and help the film a lot,” said Dodge.
Eastlink will broadcast the completed film sometime over the next several weeks. The producers plan to make the movie available later on YouTube.