Thomas Smith will direct the online The Schoolmistress for Theatre in the Valley. (Theatre in the Valley/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Thomas Smith will direct the online The Schoolmistress for Theatre in the Valley. (Theatre in the Valley/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Schoolmistress brings Victorian farce to Langley’s livestreamed theatre

A Zoom production of the popular 1886 play will be held this March

A classic 19th century farce will come to life as a Zoom play from the actors of Theatre in the Country on March 12 and 13.

The Schoolmistress is the next project of TIC.

Penned in 1886 by Arthur Wing Pinero, the play is set in a Victorian girls school where the headmistress is away, and has left her ill-suited husband in charge.

“Farces are popular always, and British farce is popular with our audience,” said TIC’s artistic director Reg Parks.

The play is fast-paced for its period, and director Thomas Smith has further edited it down to make it a fun, raucous evening for viewers.

Aside from audience appeal, the play was chosen party to give opportunities to some of TIC’s stable of young women actors.

With its girls school setting, The Schoolmistress gives the theatre a chance to offer a lot of strong female roles to its performers.

As with most of the plays TIC has done over the last year, this one will be live on Zoom.

The theatrical group has experimented with two main ways to bring theatre to people who can’t gather physically in a theatre, Parks noted.

Three times, they’ve managed to livestream plays on an actual stage, complete with sets and costumes, and a reduced audience of 50 people or fewer per night. Those events were held when health orders were less restricted, in the early autumn last year.

But the bulk of the plays have been via Zoom, with the actors separated from one another.

Parks joked that it has its advantages.

“Costumes are only required from the waist up,” he quipped.

Over more than 20 productions via the video software, the team has learned all sorts of techniques – how to “pass” props between actors in two different locations, how to kiss, how to have an actor “hide” around a corner.

It’s created some unique challenges, including how to show a character was hiding under a table during a key scene during a Zoom production of Moliere’s Tartuffe, Parks noted.

There are also some advantages.

“You get to be very close to the actors’ faces,” Parks said.

The Zoom presentations have drawn some techniques from TV, but for the actual stage productions, there are no attempts to make it more television-like, said Parks. The idea is still to present it as theatre.

Most recently, a special Valentine’s Day production of Salt-Water Moon by David French had been planned as a live production, but had to go to a Zoom format.

Whether Zoom or on stage, all the productions are ultimately theatre, always done live and not pre-recorded.

The Schoolmistress runs on March 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are pay what you can from $10, and can be purchased at theatreinthecountry.com or at 604-259-9737.

Fraser ValleyLangleyTheatre