The Digital Festival of Light and Dark

by Lynn on February 7, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming until May on the 4th Line Theatre YouTube Channel:

4th Line Theatre Company in Millbrook, Ont. (south of Peterborough) launched its 2021 programming with its first ever Digital Festival of Light and Dark. The Festival enables the community to engage with 13 regional artists’ video creations, in the safety of their own homes through 4th Line’s digital video gallery. There are actually 12 videos but 13 artists created them.

Managing Artistic Director Kim Blackwell explains, “We wanted to support local artists.  That was the genesis for the idea which ultimately became The Digital Festival of Light and Dark.

I am excited to showcase the work of so many talented local artists from almost every conceivable discipline. These short, digital works will be a chance for 4th Line audiences to see the depth and breadth of regional artists and their creative worlds.” 

The projects encompass a myriad of artistic styles from dance to poetry to photography to puppetry and several more styles.  The topics and issues explored include: the new silent nightlife in downtown Peterborough in lockdown; an exploration of physical vulnerability in the pandemic; and the story of a young girl trapped alone in a Welsh mine, to name only three. “

After viewing all the videos, I can say with conviction that the array of talent in and around Peterborough is astonishing. In these short videos, ranging from about two minutes to 10 minutes, you get a sweep of imagination covering the light and dark of the pandemic, a person’s life, a city at night, quiet, dark and shining, a sad moment in a song, the history of the women’s movement done in video, shadows and a jumble of voices that was effective, dance pieces that are jubilant, thoughtful and hopeful and a haunting memory created by puppets.

There is a cross-section of ages: There is that young girl trapped in the Welsh mine in a piece called Nerys in the Dark by Kelsey Powell, calmly telling of the place and the life of the village. They sent children down into the mines “because they were small and could fit into cracks.”  

Then in Over and Under: Two Recitals by P.J. Thomas is created by two men of a certain age. This quote from the website give a sense of the whimsy and longing of the poems: “These poems refer to the sun and moon around the horizon and equinoxes. Emphasizing light and dark, Cruella DeVille and the Man-In-Black.” Written by PJ Thomas. “Warmth” is performed by David Bateman and “Mayfly is performed by Ian McLachlan. The poems illuminate whimsy, longing, and yearning.

Shrouded by Jennifer Elchuk is a terrific piece with a woman suspended above the stage wrapped in swaths of silk as she does a ballet of sorts of being enveloped in darkness, the loneliness of the pandemic—your imagination can go wild.  The idea of light and dark is realized in the lighting and in the enveloping of the body in the silks. It’s beautifully accomplished.

Night Shift by Tristan Pierce is wonderful moody film capturing ‘the city’ (Peterborough?) at night, shiny, dark, sparkly, light and shadowy, with its own sounds, quiet and atmosphere.

Benj Rowland sings his own composition, Accident, accompanies himself on guitar and provides his own percussive background. It’s a mournful song with a captivating melody. I just wished I was able to clearly hear all the lyrics.

Naomi Duvall has created and performs Dark Eyes as a puppet show in which a woman remembers her youth and another pandemic which frightened her. She recalls night creatures, dark eyes looking at her, shadows, strange and beautiful creatures. Interesting, evocative piece.

I thought The Many Shades Between Light and Dark by Stefan Hannigan was promising, if a bit too complex for the form of ‘the interview.’ “The Canary in the Cage” is the first episode in 13 episodes or films about how performers are coping with the pandemic. In this first episode performer Marsala Lukianchuk talks about the trials, tribulations and skills she’s learned while dealing with isolation etc.

But then Hannigan has a dated tickertape line noting the various revelations of the pandemic, going across the bottom of the screen at the same time as we are listening to Marisala Lukianchuk speak. At other times he also inserts graphs with statistics. I know this is deliberate since focusing is difficult during the past year. I just didn’t think it was helpful to the piece as a whole, and it certainly upstaged the performer being interviewed. But as I said, it was a promising effort.

It’s Political by Laura Thompson is a compact, effective piece about the creation and development of the women’s movement, in shadow, light, silhouette figures to a background of news sound bites.

18 Flames Per Second by Josh Fewings is a film about flames in a fireplace that is a wonderfully witty, impish piece that plays tricks on the eye. At times it looks like that title is 18 Frames per Second, but then you have to review? rethink? what you are looking at. Clever, inventive, makes you smile.

Shadows and the Human Heart is choreographed by Frank Flynn and performed by Madison Sheward. It’s a beautiful ballet piece that evokes moody emotions but ultimately hopefulness. It lifts the spirit it’s so full of artistry.

How To Make Shadows by Madison Costello is an eye-popping satiric piece about creation. A ‘computer-generated’ woman’s voice announces that she will be instructing three participants in how to create. She notes that instructions are precise. She says there is only one way to create (one’s eyebrows are slightly knitting here), then says something like mistakes and failure are not tolerated (more eye-brow knitting). The three participants separately create structures with wood and glue. The results all look alike. It’s a fascinating, satiric piece, complex, funny and pointed about creation.   

Perhaps my favourite piece is Before It Dies by Mike Moring. It’s a compact, evocative film that initially looks like the monotony of the pandemic, because that’s all we’re thinking about at the moment.

A woman reluctantly wakes up in the morning. A shaft of light falls across her eyes.  She makes coffee. She eats lunch on the sofa. She piles the dishes in the sink. There are other dishes from other meals. At night she has a smoke and goes to bed. The next day the process is repeated. And more dishes pile up in the sink.

Then the time line shifts from day to day, there is a disruption and you realize what is actually playing out. It’s clever, sly, inventive and I loved every single minute of it.

While I occasionally had some quibbles, on the whole the pieces are full of whimsy, cleverness, eye-popping imagination, compelling storytelling and the most wonderful talent.  Every one of these filmed performances is worth your time.

The Digital Festival of Light and Dark is on the 4th Line Theatre Company’s You Tube channel until May.

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