Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Jean-Michel Cliche is a St. Thomas University graduate. In fact, he is a University of New Brunswick graduate. We regret this error.
COVID-19 is challenging artists to find new ways to make their work public, but University of New Brunswick graduate Jean-Michel Cliche, along with Theatre St. Thomas, are showing the community the brilliance of innovation with the upcoming show Scope.
Through TST, Cliche had the opportunity to work and collaborate with students to create projects as well as help them find a connection to theatre.
“It’s great to collaborate and create with people that are just finding this theatre and falling in love with it,” said Cliche.
After years of being in the spotlight as a performer, Cliche decided to go backstage and focus on playwriting and directing, which has led him to the creation of Scope.
Scope, which will debut in March, is an anthology of scenes based around the idea of technology and relationships shown through a computer program slowly falling in love with humanity and its quirks.
Cliche stated it would be an analysis of the human experience, discussing topics such as breakups, loneliness and climate change with a science-fiction twist.
Though theatre has been done online in platforms like Zoom due to the pandemic, many of the actors and directors have found a way to adapt and let creativity flow with different technology options heightening the performances.
“We’re thinking how to redefine theatre when you can’t be in a physical room with the actors,” said Cliche.
Carter Scott, a fourth-year STU student and TST president, said TST has provided opportunities for students to work in professional theatre and become a creative outlet to many in the STU community.
“We are sort of adapting as the year goes by,” said Scott.
He said theatre is about change and adaptation. Though the pandemic caught everyone off-guard, putting in-person shows on pause, creatives have found a way to see an opportunity to improve and innovate the old ways.
“Theatre always gazed at the future. I think with the pandemic it’s actually kind of helped stop some of the stagnation of theatre,” said Scott.
Scope will be recorded using 360 cameras, which film a scene from all angles using multiple lenses and stitch the images together. Cliche said though theatre’s charm is the risk of performing live, this broadcast of a pre-recorded show gives the viewer a more personal experience with the characters and the story.
“We are creating a theatrical experience by giving the audience a way to interact and choose what they’re looking at,” said Cliche.
Cliche said Scope’s interactive nature gives the audience a way to experience and connect with the show by walking themselves through the story. He strives for the audience to look at theatre as more than actors performing in a room.
“It’s sort of like a bit of a treasure hunt, people are going to get the first chunk of the story but that’s going to lead to other places on the internet”, said Cliche.
Cliche also has his own theatre company, Hyperloop Theatre, where he combines technology and theatre, paving the way for a more modern form. Another show that is part of the new era of theatre during the pandemic is Space Girl, which in contrast to Scope, is live-streamed.
“I’m interested in making more theatre like this. I think it’s exciting and new,” said Cliche. “It’s sort of our collective theatre duty to always be pushing the envelope and thinking about what else is possible.”
Cliche said this isn’t his first rodeo with technology in theatre and is interested in making more theatre like this. He said there’s a duty to always push the envelope and think about what’s possible in theatre.
“I hope people watching Scope get to enjoy theatre in a different but also, in a more intimate way,” said Cliche. “One of the great things about performing a show online is you have control in how you experience it.”