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Elly on the Arts: Breaking new ground with livestreaming, online show

"There is a very cool event coming this week within our arts and cultural community. It’s actually an online event so that means it is going to be available all over Manitoba - no, wait - all over Canada, or maybe we mean all over the world."
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A theatre curtain hangs pre-show.

There is a very cool event coming this week within our arts and cultural community. It’s actually an online event so that means it is going to be available all over Manitoba - no, wait - all over Canada, or maybe we mean all over the world. The whole internet thing is still magic to us (and yes, we are aware that it is years old now but that really doesn’t help) so we really don’t understand it, but it’s called the World Wide Web for a reason.

Anyway, local visual artist Mike Spencer has created a piece, written and directed by himself and Raphael Saray, called ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Shrug). The title is just the beginning of the innovations. It is described in its publicity material as, “an innovative livestream production using a hybrid presentation method, which combines live video, live cartoon puppets, and pre-recorded video segments. In this quirky comedy, a feuding couple finds themselves on an epic journey through cyberspace.”

Spencer describes it as live-action with actors and cartoon puppets in real-time interspersed with pre-recorded moments. The show will happen on March 26 with a watch party at Johnny’s Social Club. The actors Susan Gunn Saray, Alain Lachapelle, Miranda Bowman and John Bettger will be performing live, as will the cartoon puppets. We are not at all sure how they got said puppets to learn their lines, but that is only another of the mysterious elements in this production. 

A third mystical moment is paying for the show. You can watch it from the comfort of your own home, as it is livestreamed. It is $20 and there is a QR code that you can scan to get the instructions for payment and tuning in to the show. We meant it when we said magic - technology is just amazing.

 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Shrug) is a collaboration between quite disparate artists working in such a wide variety of media. Spencer is predominately a visual artist whose art practice includes ceramics, photography and painting. Saray is a performing artist who has written and performed in theatrical productions at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival over several years and is no stranger to the Flin Flon stage either. Of course, he is also well-known for his “day job” as a radio broadcaster at CFAR. Spencer is transitioning out of his role as gallery manager at NorVA Centre to devote more time to the work of producing visual art. Their collaboration on this project is very exciting for the public as well as the artists.

The funding process for this project is interesting in its own right. Spencer received a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council to fund this work through the “support” stream of activity, designed to “invest in the long-term sustainability of Manitoba’s arts and cultural sector.” He applied to the ‘Adapt’ program, which has as its mandate to “[assist] applicants who are responding to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting their artistic practice, expanding their skills, building new relationships or creating new work.” 

“This funding intake is made possible by the Manitoba government’s investment in the Arts and Culture Sustainability Funds to support Manitoba’s art and culture sector, which has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Do try to tune in on Saturday for a brand-new, never been seen before kind of experience - you know, the kind Flin Flon is famous for.