“Listen to This” is a great way to both enjoy and support the arts during COVID-19

Four audio plays to make you feel like you’re back in an auditorium

The Arts Club is re-imagining the theatre experience. Image courtesy of Unsplash

By: Emma Best, SFU Student

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted more than those visible onstage. Like many other industries, the arts have had to pivot in order to survive. It is through digital performances that theatre companies, such as the Arts Club, have been able to support local creatives working behind the scenes and continue the experience of theatre during these trying times. 

The Arts Club Theatre Company is currently running a collection of four audio plays in a series titled Listen to This. An audio play is exactly what the title suggests: a play told entirely through sound. Relying entirely on dialogue, music, and sound effects, audio plays emulate the feeling of theatre without the visual aspects of it. Each play in Listen to This is written by a local playwright affiliated with the Arts Club’s Emerging Playwrights’ Unit or Silver Commissions Project. They are available to purchase either individually or as a series. Alternatively, you can listen to them for free through weekly Apple or Spotify podcast episodes.

Unexpecting by Bronwyn Carradine follows a married couple: Annie and Josephine (Annie a writer and Jo a painter with a penchant for painting abstract vulvas). I found this play to be both funny and frustrating. A series of misunderstandings highlight the importance of communication in a relationship, and the tension created is released through witty characters and dialogue.

Available now through September 15.

Night Passing by Scott Button is inspired by true stories and takes place in 1950s Ottawa. It follows a young man named Elliot as he escapes his rural hometown in hopes of exploring his burgeoning sexuality. Undoubtedly the most serious play of the three available, Night Passing is a thrilling noir that had me anticipating and mourning each choice the characters were forced to make. It has also been expertly converted from a stage play to the audio format, partially told through the narration of the main character 25 years after the events of the play.

Available now through October 27.

Someone Like You by Christine Quintana is an adaptation of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, set in Vancouver during the COVID-19 pandemic. With so much of the comedy rooted in the shared experience many of us have had over the past year, I found this play to be incredibly relatable. The friendship and relationship at the centre of it highlights the importance of self-love and results in a refreshing and enlightening take on the classic (yet at times problematic) play on which it’s based. And, like Night Passing, the use of narration alongside the events of the play makes for an entertaining and engaging listening experience.

Available now through January 19, 2022.

My Father is the Greatest Man in the World by Tai Amy Grauman follows Rose, a now famous singer in Nashville who returns to her Métis family in Alberta. Pregnant with her first child, Rose goes to her father and looks to his past for answers about her child’s future.

Available September 15.

As someone who not only loves live theatre but has seen several Arts Club productions, I was eager to be transported back to a squeaky theatre seat (in my mind). Despite the lack of visuals, each play is told through well-written and descriptive dialogue, allowing the listener to easily picture each scene as it plays out. Meanwhile, the sound design — sound effects that emulate real movement such as walking, kissing, or birds chirping in the distance — further immerses the listener into each scene they experience. 

Those elements, along with excellent actors and original music, come together to tell compelling stories that are not only entertaining, but also incredibly accessible and easy to listen to. I tidied my room while I listened to each of these, but they also make great soundtracks for walks, drives, or simply laying in bed in the dark. And they are also an easy and enjoyable way to support the arts amidst all this uncertainty.