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Keeping cultured through COVID-19: Edmonton music, comedy, improv shows switch to live stream

Edmonton singer-songwriter Martin Kerr performs a live stream concert on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
Edmonton singer-songwriter Martin Kerr performs a live stream concert on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Facebook/ Martin Kerr

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a stream of arts cancellations in Edmonton, after the province declared a state of emergency last week and cancelled gatherings of 50 people or more.

As part of aggressive new measures, the Alberta government also banned people from theatres, bars and nightclubs.

For many local musicians, comedians, and theatre and improv groups, that means their jobs have effectively been cancelled.

READ MORE: ‘The show cannot go on’: Canada’s arts scene takes hit from COVID-19

But as social distancing becomes the new normal, many performance groups are adapting to offer live stream options for Edmontonians stuck at home.

As streams take over the arts scene, some performers are working for free, others are taking in online tips, while some are working with grant programs such as the Canada Performs program. That program was launched Canada-wide by the National Arts Centre and offers artists $1,000 for an online performance. The grant is open to applications until March 31.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edmonton cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19

Here’s what some Edmonton groups and individuals are doing, in alphabetical order:

Citadel Theatre

The Citadel Theatre has launched a “Stuck-in-the-House Series” which will run on its Facebook page, featuring a new artist each day. The shows will feature caberet, music and comedy.

The artists will all be receiving a small fee from the Edmonton Community Foundation, but the group is also accepting donations.

Die-Nasty, The Live Improvised Soap Opera

The Edmonton improv group normally runs a show every Monday at the Varscona Theatre at 7:30 p.m., but has switched to a “radio drama” version of the show to allow for social distancing.

The Die-Nasty actors gather through the Zoom conference app to record an improv performance that will then be shared through its Facebook page on Monday evenings. The group has also been contacted to put on a Canada Performs show in the coming weeks.

Edmonton Musician Community Online

A Facebook group that launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic provides a space where smaller-known musicians can share their plans for live-streamed concerts.

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House of Hush Burlesque

The burlesque group made waves for its first at-home show last week, featuring live streamed performances from each dancer’s home.

The group offered tipping options, including performing a “sexy hand sanitizer application: for a fee. The group’s next live stream is set for April 3 on its Facebook page.

Locked in Love remote theatre production

A group of Edmonton-based performers are launching “Locked in Love,” a YouTube mini-series that will be acted and directed remotely.

The production will feature actors from across Canada. The group will record their individual parts through the KNEKT TV program with smart phones. The four-part series will be released in April.

Martin Kerr

The Edmonton-based singer-songwriter hosted a “couch concert” from home Sunday evening. Kerr played for over an hour-and-a-half to over 4,000 viewers, and said he would be hosting similar live events in the future. He will be posting more information about future live events on his Facebook page. 

Party Queens drag

After its live event was cancelled, the Party Queens drag group moved to a live stream format, with its first one taking place Saturday.

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The group said it will be continuing the live shows through the Zoom app throughout the pandemic. Updates on when the next show will be streamed can be found on the Party Queens Facebook page. 

Underdog Comedy Show

One of Edmonton’s most well-known indie comedy shows, normally held at the Black Dog Freehouse, is launching a live-stream format on its Facebook page each Thursday evening. The show’s creators say they won’t be leaving the streams up afterwards, meaning it will be only visible if people tune in live at 9 p.m.

Winspear Centre

The Winspear Centre announced Monday it would be streaming a live performance from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Rafael Hoekman and its guest pianist Jeremy Spurgeon (the pair will be a safe distance apart). The show will stream as part of the Canada Performs program and will run on the ESO’s Facebook page at 2:00 p.m. MT on Thursday, March 26. Viewers will also have the opportunity to donate during the performance.

Do you have an Edmonton-area event or performance that’s going to be live streamed that should be on this list? Please email allison.bench@globalnews.ca.