In late May to early June, another cohort of students will graduate from their two-year diplomas at the Canadian College of Performings Arts (CCPA).
For this cohort, though, the experience has been unlike any group’s before, and will probably be unlike any other group to follow.
“They had from September to last March in pre-COVID times, doing normal training at the college,” said Caleb Marshall, the College’s Managing Artistic Director.
“And then they had to complete their year entirely remotely, and we had to pivot their year end project into a digital virtual portfolio.”
That sudden shift, brought on by the pandemic, has led to significant changes for all of CCPA’s operations.
While the school has been able to continue in-person operations, they underwent substantial infrastructure changes to accommodate COVID safety guidelines.
That included installation of new HEPA filters, renovation of the office blocks to create a large studio for physical distancing, and the addition of screens and webcams in every single studio to allow remote viewing.
For the students, however, the change has been particularly jarring.
“I feel for this class because they knew what it was like before,” said Marshall.
“Our year one students this year have only ever known COVID protocols at the college. And in a way, I think the year ones have probably adapted more easily.”
Marshall also teaches at CCPA, and says that there is a sense of loss for the graduating cohort in that they haven’t been able to experience the usual activities that offer a sense of community through their learning.
In some cases, students are learning from instructors through a screen, and they are learning to perform with face masks on.
That said, Marshall says he is proud of the students for rising to the challenge.
“I’m incredibly proud of the student body,” he says.
“This is a very rigorous, demanding program…mostly 12-hour days from 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night. And then you layer the stress and anxiety, of how do you explore an intimate art form, an art form that requires human connection, an art form that requires physical intimacy.”
Their efforts will be presented for the public in a series of shows that will be available for viewing through a live-stream. The performances will not be recorded; audiences will be watching remotely as the students perform live from the College.
First up will be Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Colleen Murphy’s I Hope My Heart Burns First, a black comedy about six youths who break into a mansion, determined to loot their way out of a drug debt.
There will be three performances: 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday March 10, 7:30 p.m. on Friday March 12 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday March 13.
The second show performed by the students will be Falsework, adapted for the stage from the book of poetry by Gary Geddes and directed by Christopher Weddell.
The story dramatically recalls the worst industrial accident in Vancouver history, on
June 17, 1958, when Second Narrows Bridge collapsed while under construction.
Falsework will be live-streamed Thursday March 11 at 7:30 p.m., Friday March 12 at 2 p.m. and Saturday March 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be bought online at ccpacanada.com, or over the phone (250-940-6851).
Marshall says these productions show the adaptability of these students and their commitment to their craft.
“This is an industry and an art form that is about collaboration, and about community coming together,” he said
“I think their sense of of collaboration and Unity has been strengthened by this. Even though at times they probably feel very isolated, and that’s the irony.”