Live online performances of Three Sisters & Co. running April 7-17

Set of three Russian dolls with the largest one open and the lid laying on its side.

At a time when audiences can’t go to the theatre, George Brown College’s graduating theatre students are bringing the show to you. Virtually, of course. 

The Theatre Arts—Performance program’s Class of 2021 presents Three Sisters & Co. on YouTube April 7 – 17. All eight performances will be performed live online. Viewers can watch the show for free, but the theatre school would appreciate donations to George Brown's COVID-19 Relief Fund in lieu of admission. The show is an adaptation of Anton Chekov’s classic drama Three Sisters. You can donate at georgebrown.ca/donate/three-sisters-donation.

Intricate planning and impressive innovation 

Three Sisters & Co., home performance space

The rehearsal process for this production involved intricate layers of planning. The cast of 25 did not rehearse in-person, and director Rob Kempson led the production via video conferences. The actors had to memorize the layout of the virtual set to ensure exits and entrances are consistent across their screens. Lighting equipment and costumes and props were delivered to students’ homes.   

“They designed a virtual house that is created on greenscreens and all of the students know the house backwards. There are about 30 different images that they come and go to,” Program Coordinator Sue Miner said. “This is a very strong class, and they work very well together.” 

Home performance set-up.

The cast worked with Kempson to examine and then revise the script and wrote music used in the play — again, all virtually. 

Miner said the students must show as much rigour in the online performances as they would in front of a live audience. There are no retakes or do-overs. 

“They have to be prepared,” she said, “they have to know their lines, they have to do all the stuff that would be required in a live theatre presentation.” 

An historical play that speaks to our current times 

Three Sisters was first performed in the early 1900s and it tells the story of a family feeling isolated living in the countryside and longing for their former lives in Moscow. 

“Most of us are experiencing some pretty intense feelings of isolation right now. Whether holed up with our families, finding the new rhythms of working online, or negotiating tricky co-habitation, the pandemic has forced everyone to live their lives in new ways and seek connection through unconventional means," Kempson said. “And that, conveniently, is pretty strongly related to the themes and challenges of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The Prozorov family feels stuck in their town and surprised by the lives they are now living." 

As the pandemic forces us all to consume art and entertainment through screens, what does this mean for the future of theatre? Miner isn’t worried. Questions about the future of theatre have been raised for many years, and Miner is confident in the tenacity of theatre as an art form.  

“It’s not dying. It’s coming forward. It has mutated and adapted,” she said. “It has no plans on dying.” 

Register to watch Three Sisters & Co., running April 7 – 17 on YouTube.