In Absentia Theatre: A Creative Virtual Response to Covid-19

One of many Zoom rehearsals for “The Importance of Being Earnest” by In Absentia Theatre. Join the Facebook Watch Party on Sunday, May 17 at 2pm!

As social isolation starts to become a new normal for people in Northumberland County (and far beyond) in hope of flattening the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic, creatives have begun to grow restless. After all, when you’re a person who is used to attending rehearsals multiple times each week to prepare for a performance, it really does become an enriching and significant part of a person’s life. 

Seeing the need for a creative outlet for the local theatre community, Matt Kowalyk and Bill Walker came together to ask themselves, “WHAT IF we took a couple of scripts, worked the text, rehearsed it like a show, and then did a web cast of the dramatic reading?”. This simple concept of virtual outreach for theatre lovers is where In Absentia Theatre was born. 

“As someone who loves performance art, I found it really difficult to be told ‘you can’t go and rehearse’…[which is something] that I’ve relied on for a very long time, for not only my pleasure and [as] my hobby and my passion, but for my mental health too. So to have that taken away from me and knowing how many people I know who also rely on that as an outlet, [inspired us to do] this to fill that void in everyone’s lives without the need of that huge curtain payoff. For me, [art and theatre have] always been about the journey; the build up to that curtain,” Kowalyk explains.

Now including over forty participants, many of whom are Northumberland Players volunteers and alum, In Absentia Theatre revolves around the founding values of “creativity first”, “inclusivity”, and “fun and fluidity”. Participants were split into groups of five or six, each headed by a director, and have been meeting over Zoom to rehearse over the last few weeks. The process culminated in a live performance over Zoom and will be presented as a Facebook Watch Party on Sunday, May 17 at 2pm.

When asked where Kowalyk sees this project going, he says, “I hope to see it evolve into a virtual arts community centre where people can create, share, explore, and grow in a safe place. It’s really much more about the process than any kind of performance though!”

To learn more about In Absentia Theatre, visit their Facebook Page, In Absentia Theatre. Matt Kowalyk also spoke with Lyss Warmland about this project on Friday, May 1 at 8pm on The Nothing Exists Radio Hour

Matt Kowalyk, one of the creators of In Absentia Theatre, chats with Lyss Warmland about the project.