Christine Fraser's Community of Artists Shine Bright - Virtually!
By Samantha Skelton
Christine Fraser has championed her personal mission all the way through to her newly formed We All Shine Productions to create a community of artists that come together to do the one thing they all have a passion for - to create.
Christine talks about producing plays virtually in the time of COVID, what excites her about the theater, and where she sees their group going next.
Tell me about your background as an actress?
My background is in the community theater circuit. In the greater Toronto area, I've performed a lot in our local theater community. I was always involved in plays in school growing up. Once I went to university, some of those things went by the wayside and then I picked it back up later in life.
Did you ever want to go into film or TV?
My heart lies with live theater. There's something special that happens with live theater and all the things that everyone does to come together to make it happen.
What was the impetus for starting We All Shine Productions?
I've always been involved in theater and various creative endeavors and obviously with the pandemic it became hard to keep being creative.
I was part of a group that got together to read plays for fun, for a creative outlet. Seeing that some other people had started to do online things and were creating interesting virtual productions, I started researching what that might look like. Also, my friend/co-producer/co-director was in a few virtual shows with a group that performed one Shakespeare play a week and I was inspired by what they were able to achieve virtually.
It's hard to get the rights to do a virtual play and keep it online, unless we did something in the public domain. So, I started reading One-Act plays and contacting playwrights to ask if I could work with someone to create a production based on their play.
From there, our vision grew. It started with doing a few plays, but it's really morphed into more of a cabaret style where our vision is to have two to three short one-act plays that focus on a theme. Then we bring in other artists to collaborate and mix in other performances.
The production we just finished is called Intimate Perspectives, which addresses thoughts and perspectives around sex and intimacy, and it will remain online for audiences to enjoy. We had a visual artist who created a poster for us. We also had a dancer/choreographer and a fire dancer who performed intimate dance pieces.
Several short comedic skits were thrown in there as well. Our mandate is that we will have two plays that revolve around the same theme, with other creative performances peppered in.
What has it been like producing in the time of COVID?
We always pick the plays first and try to see if there's a common theme between the two or we look for a second play that fits with the theme of the first.
I hadn't actually produced pre-COVID. I'd been involved with many productions pre-COVID, but this is my first time being this involved. It's both harder and easier than it was pre-pandemic.
It's a challenge from a directing standpoint, the question is always how do we translate blocking and physicality on screen? How do we make an immersive and engaging production that's live?
We don't have the opportunity to do post-production stuff to enhance it. We still want it to be a full immersive live theater experience. We want to create the illusion that the actors are interacting even if they're truly not.
Another question we always ask is how do we keep our energy up? The actors have to bring their own energy when acting off someone on-screen as opposed to how they would normally be on stage. We encourage people to stand to help give them some movement.
When I approached the production virtually, as we started going, all these different considerations came up. This is a new medium and a new format. The director has a vision, but we do a lot of playing. If there's a physical scene we have conversations about how we're going to show that. There's a lot of experimenting.
In fact, one of the most fun things has been the experimenting. It's amazing to try a bunch of different things and find something cool and go, 'Wow that works!' The discovery is fun. It helps to build morale and the feeling that we're creating something together.
How did you come to produce Hang Fire?
I was reading through some different one-act play books and looked for anyone that held their own rights. I wanted something that could live in perpetuity on the internet and wouldn't just be a one-off.
Anthony Mora got back to me and we started going back and forth in our conversations. I originally reached out to him about a different play, but he suggested Hang Fire.
The premise of Hang Fire is a sex therapy group that is meeting during the pandemic. The other play, called A Quiet Place, is set in the 1960s in Canada where a prostitute witnesses a couple coming to the hotel to have premarital sex for the first time.
What was your motivation for doing these productions?
Another huge part of me starting this company was I realized I really wanted to create a community of creative people of all types. That has become my personal mission, even outside of the company. I wanted a community that will support and collaborate with each other in a really positive way.
What's next for you and We All Shine Productions?
Our goal is to do a show every one to two months. There are five of us on the production team whose hard work makes our shows possible. We will continue doing productions virtually for as long as theaters are shut down. Our next production, which streams live on May 1, 2021, is called Reunited and includes two plays that center around the theme of reunions.
We would very much like to do a PRIDE show in June, that's certainly on our radar. More recently we decided that once we go back into the real theater, we want to do the festival circuit. We are applying to the Toronto Digital Fringe Festival for this year and want to see what other festivals we can participate in virtually too.
I see my company as doing more on-location stuff as opposed to performing in traditional theater settings; in the park, going to different events, as well as festivals. We're very excited to see where we can go next!
For more information visit: WeAllShineProductions.com
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