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‘The Verandah Society’ hits the stage at 4th Line Theatre

Click to play video: '‘The Verandah Society’ hits the stage at 4th Line Theatre' ‘The Verandah Society’ hits the stage at 4th Line Theatre
As Covid-19 restrictions ease, sit-down performances are returning to 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook, On. Caley Bedore heads to the outdoor venue to learn about this season's show, "The Verandah Society." – Aug 13, 2021

Sit-down performances are back at 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook, Ont., after it had to cancel much of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am pretty verklempt,” said 4th Line Theatre’s managing artistic director, Kim Blackwell. “For us, we lost 50 per cent of our operating revenue on the 13th of March last year. Into 2021, it wasn’t looking like we would have any theatre again, but luckily we are.”

Blackwell said they are easing back into things this season, with fewer audience members and a smaller scale performance, The Verandah Society, which hits the stage at the outdoor, open-air venue Aug. 17-28.

“This is more of a traditional sit-down show, albeit smaller than what we have done in the past, featuring two performers and one musician,” she said.

The cast is Saskia Tomkins, Kate Suhr and Megan Murphy.

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But it isn’t the first time audiences have been able to see the show (or at least a version of it).

When COVID-19 restrictions forced the closure of theatre and music venues, well known members of the Peterborough, Ont., arts community, Megan Murphy and Kate Suhr, created The Verandah Society, travelling to back yards and front porches for personal, “pandemic-friendly,” performances.

“About a year ago, when everything hit the fan, Meg and I decided that we would join forces,” Suhr said.

“Megan writes the most incredible stories for her blog and I said we need to bring these to life. We tell stories, we sing songs and we went from verandah to verandah during the pandemic and it was really special.”

“We thought, well, maybe if people book us and we could go from people’s decks to backyards, we thought that would be alright,” Murphy said. “We’ve booked over 120 verandahs to date.”

Aug. 12 marked the anniversary of the first verandah performance.

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Peterborough arts venues staying afloat as they wait to welcome back guests – Jun 16, 2021

The show explores the pair’s lives and experiences during the pandemic, done through story telling and original music. While they have adjusted the set for the stage at 4th Line Theatre, expanding the show to 80 minutes, Murphy said they have kept that intimate, community feel.

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“I am realizing now, through the arts, that it is helping people process what we went through,” Murphy said. “It feels finally we can be together and collectively grieve and process together, and to be a part of that is really humbling.”

“It really was the community that brought us back to life and allow us to process that grief and joy,” Suhr added.

Blackwell had booked the show during the pandemic for her verandah and approached the pair about adapting the set for 4th Line Theatre.

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The show must go on: ‘Arts Week Shift’ offering pandemic safe performances throughout Peterborough and online – Jun 1, 2021

She said having an audience return to the outdoor venue has been an emotional experience.

“I think we can all agree that when we are able to gather in small groups and larger groups, we relish that communal and cathartic experience,” Blackwell said.

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“We have missed so much of that, and gathering as human beings and starting to breathe at the same time in a show and laugh together in the same moment, that was all gone in the pandemic. You can do things on Zoom or virtually, but it is not the same as this.”

Tickets are limited, but as of Aug. 13, there is still availability if you call the box office at 705-932-4445.

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