In this screen shot of the different cast members, left to right moving down row by row are Sandra McNeill, Dave Rama, Sophie Peterson, Christine Backs, Scott Tomlinson, Gord Hawkes, Nadia Beaupré, Kevin Kennedy, and Jennifer Rowberry. Courtesy Photo

RUSSELL – The pandemic has resulted in many changes in how we all interact.

The local entertainment industry in communities, as represented by small theatre groups has for the most part been shut down by Covid-19.

The Russell Association for the Performing Arts, (RAPA) has found a way around those pandemic circumstances with their performance of the play Check Please.

The president of RAPA Dave Rama said, “We are a community theatre group.

We do theatre twice a year and just before the pandemic we were going to put on Monty Python’s Spamalot and had rehearsed that and were about to go on in April of 2020.”

He said, “The pandemic made performing the play next to impossible, and of course the pandemic hit us and we had to postpone that. So, we were really interested in getting reconnected with our community and doing something, so we decided that we would do an online play on Zoom.”

The play Check Please was a perfect choice. A play by Jonathan Rand was live streamed by RAPA in March as a fundraiser for Good Neighbours’ Foodbank.

The theatre group had sponsorship from Russell Foodland and Barry’s Home Hardware.

“A lot of our hesitancy to actually do something online is that everybody is kind of getting tired of it.” said Rama. 

The play was about 30 minutes long. “It is a nice quick snappy little play, people could sit down and just spend 35 to 40 minutes with us and get a good laugh, and then get on with their day.”

Their performance was a hit with an estimated 400 viewers who watched it on their computer screens and $1,000 was raised for Russell’s food bank.

The play is designed to use a minimum of special effects and set changes which was why RAPA choose it. The premise is that a man and a woman are going on different dates with a set of different people.

RAPA cleverly used as a backdrop for the different restaurant settings locations in Russell.

The awkward and increasingly bad dates continue throughout the play until the man and women are finally paired up with each other.

The play, which RAPA spent several months rehearsing ran from March 25 to 27 and because it was streamed, it was watched by people right across Canada.

The cast for the play did all their rehearing over Zoom, taking advantage of the technology that can thank the pandemic for its popularity. They rehearsed twice a week for about two months.

“It was fun to reconnect,” said Rama.

Because the performance required changes in locations and actors for each scene, the transitions on the screen were handled with short musical interludes.

There was different things to get used to, using Zoom instead of a stage.

Rama directed the performance and was in charge of the technical aspect of it as well.

Turning the different cameras for the different dating couples on and off as the play progressed was a challenge.

Rama said that with practice turning the cameras on and off at the correct time became a smooth operation.

“It was fun,” said Rama.

Using Zoom to produce a play and getting all of the different performers working flawlessly when they are not all in the same room was one more challenge overcome by RAPA created by the pandemic.