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Artistic Director Dan Petrenko: Theatre is back!

Dearest patron, reader, or whomever you are,

One of the principal distinctions between theatre and other artforms (particularly film) is theatre’s unique grasp on ephemerality. Afterall, it is the only major artform that is completely transitory – every actor’s entrance, exit, action, and reaction happens in one moment, and then it’s gone forever.

“I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost – it’s there and then it’s gone.” Maggie Smith, British Actress

Unlike Hollywood’s practices of multiple-takes and scrupulous post-production, theatre artists have mastered an ability to perform ‘in the moment’. And in the same way, audiences have come to know and appreciate the exhilarating truth that theatre is an unrepeatable experience that ends when the curtain falls. A performance can never be duplicated, recreated, or cloned. Every night at the theatre is different, even if ever so slightly. On Sunday, the lead actor may rush his pre-show vocal warm up, putting a strain on his G# belt. On Tuesday, the tech operator may play the lighting cue earlier than rehearsed. And at the Wednesday matinée, the pesky woman in the third row could embark on an irritating coughing spree. Only when we realize that theatre is all about people being alive together and sharing a space, can we then understand the true appeal of the art.

Although a performance ends with the fall of the curtain, we were always confident that if we were to return to the theatre the following evening, or weekend, or month, it would be there for us. Over the years, we have too comfortable with this notion (perhaps too comfortable).

And then, suddenly, all belief in this comfort was shattered.

We were left with nothing but memories, and no guarantee for theatre’s return in the foreseeable future.

Do you remember the last time you saw a play? A musical? A concert? I remember the last live shows I went to see – a local Toronto burlesque troupe that took the stage at a games-café on February 8, 2020, and then a Chicago-based travelling show called I Don’t Understand that was part of Olive Branch’s inaugural season on February 14, 2020. As someone who lives and breathes theatre, it’s hard not to think of those final moments, before the world changed. And as an avid existentialist thinker, I find it just as tough to consider that every experience in our lives could just as well be a ‘final moment’ – everything we do or everything that happens to us, could be the last of its kind. Because just like a performance, living moments can’t be duplicated, recreated, or cloned.

But on this hot August day, I write with hope. For the first time in more than a year, I see land on the horizon.

Theatre is making a comeback in every corner of the world.

Broadway has announced its gradual return.

The West End in London has begun filling seats.

And Toronto’s Mirvish Theatre has unveiled their 2021/22 season earlier this week.

Though the period of the pandemic is not yet behind us, a gradual and safe return to the theatre is near.

At Olive Branch Theatre, we could not be more excited to present a new season.

Our dedicated artists, administrators, supporters, and our board are eager to welcome you in person. More information will be unveiled in the coming days, I promise.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with a thought: as we all embark on a journey to bring back the ephemeral theatre into our lives, we must always remember that there is always the possibility that “it’s there and then it’s gone”. And for that, we must always treasure it.

Sending you joy and good health!

Yours truly,

Dan Petrenko

Artistic Director, Olive Branch Theatre


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