Three of the country’s creatives have come together and decided to take local theatre to the virtual world.
Actresses Penelope Spencer, Cecilia Salazar and general manager of OMG Media Limited Stephen Doobal will today launch PC Comedy—free live theatrical plays presented on Facebook via the OMG Digital Magazine platform.
“It was a venture that had to be sought after, as sitting around waiting for something to happen during this time would leave the future of the country’s theatre industry in a state of uncertainty,” Spencer told Guardian Media in a telephone interview.
The Mary Could Dance actress, whose livelihood is theatre, said while there were actors in T&T who worked two jobs, for her and colleague Salazar, the theatre was their main source of income.
She explained with the social adjustments forced by the COVID-19 pandemic one being the shutdown of various businesses and institutions, among them schools, recreational and entertainment spaces, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, they have found themselves in quite a fix.
“Because of the severity of this thing as it pertains to the gathering of groups, you can’t have shows or anything, the theatre has been stopped,” Spencer lamented.
The thespian, who teaches drama as well in two schools, and Salazar in three—this source of earnings have also come to a halt as schools have been closed since March and will remain closed until September.
Spencer’s acting school Necessary Arts, where she is the artistic director, has also been closed due to COVID-19.
She said, “I have been living on my savings and now it’s kind of gone through, you know.”
She added, “I am even nervous about Necessary Arts now because we have not been able to pay our rent in months. It is all very scary.”
To ensure she does not lose the institution, Spencer said a GoFundMe campaign was set up for persons to make donations to help save Necessary Arts.
“I feel like my hand are ties and I don’t know what next to do,” Spencer noted.
It was on this premise the idea to go virtual with theatre was hatched. “I said look Penny let’s go into this virtual hemisphere,” said Spencer.
Set up also is a PC Comedy Fund Me TnT campaign, which Spencer explained was created for online patrons to make contributions.
“I don’t want people to think of it as a charity at all rather think of it as paying to see a show.”
What theatre lovers will see in PC Comedy, 90 per cent is the work of Spencer, she told Guardian Media.
“It is not like we are begging. We are just asking people to help us pay us, during this time where our livelihood has been cut off,” Spencer reiterated.
Spencer, who was in the middle of doing rehearsals for two pieces of her work—Ladies Room and The Seven Year Itch, when the pandemic struck, argued there was nothing in the future that looked positive for the arts and entertainment sector in T&T and expressed, it was why she was so disturbed about the lack of representation for the sector on the Government appointed recovery committee.
She said people in the entertainment industry were experiencing a severe negative backlash caused by the pandemic.
Spencer said, PC Comedy would also see the work of local actors who live abroad. She found the virtual platform also provided the opportunity, to bring theatre to the man in the street, as she says, often there was the misconception that theatre was only for a particular social class.
“There are some who assume theatre is for the ‘haves.’ They put theatre in this place like it is exclusive to a certain group, so we are hoping that the man in the street will see what has been going on in the Central Bank and the Naparima Bowl and see how accessible theatre is. It’s our people and our stories we are telling,” Spencer said.
Each episode of PC Comedy would not remain online for repeat viewing as Spencer explained they would be packaged and available on a platform where persons could purchase it.