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No Strings Attached: TIN CAN TELEPHONE is a Virtual Performance Without a Screen

“We’re tired of looking at screens and miss the liveness of theatre; the adventure it provides. It’s something you can’t replicate in pre-recorded video form.” Porch Light Theatre founders Aaron Jan and Karen Ancheta share in a preview for their upcoming 2021 Hamilton Fringe Festival production in response to a question that doesn’t even need to be asked at this point in the pandemic.

How does one prepare for a virtual Fringe Festival show, when after over a year of online content, audiences are becoming exhausted with only interacting with a screen? How does a creator make something new, exciting and fresh using what has become an all-too-familiar medium?

To answer this question, co-directors Jan and Ancheta went back to an early and adored form of sharing information; specifically, the tin can telephone. Using this childhood method of communication as inspiration, they considered their own personal experiences as young performers.

Porch Light then teamed up with young, diverse high school students and youth organizers from Glendale High School, Westdale Secondary School and SPACE youth centre’s SHYFT program. These four artists (Sonny Duan, Metia Irakunda, Chyler Sewell and Bruce Wu) were charged with writing a new performance and received professional direction for their production through Jan and Ancheta, who in turn, found inspiration in the young artists.

“How can we make the experience of watching and hearing each piece as exciting as it was for us hearing and developing the stories for the first time?” Jan shared. “How can we make their stories urgent, exciting and a unique visceral, one of a kind experience in an era where we can’t share the same physical space?”

The result is TIN CAN TELEPHONE; an immersive, site specific radio play, where audience members are guided through an outdoor adventure led by four mysterious voices and no screen is required. To participate in the experience, audience members will be required to travel to four secret locations throughout Hamilton, each with a corresponding ten minute audio performance. Locations are all transit-accessible, and range from urban settings to those in nature, and even include one that audiences will need to physically construct by themselves. Detailed instructions for each site will be provided after purchasing a ticket.

“It’s kind of like a theatre scavenger hunt,” Jan confided. “It will hopefully allow audiences to experience each storyteller’s memories and views of the city in an embodied way. . .It’s self paced and a way to explore the city through another person’s eyes in a unique, one on one personal experience.”

For those who aren’t quite ready to venture on an outdoor scavenger hunt, TIN CAN TELEPHONE is also available as a radio-play that can be enjoyed without leaving home. 

Regardless of the method that audiences choose to engage in, Jan is confident that audiences will find a connection through TIN CAN TELEPHONE that has been missed over the past year. This one-on-one storytelling is noted by him and Ancheta in the show’s online preview.

“It’s truly an immersive sensory adventure, which fuses the live-ness, in person-ness and intimacy that we miss about theatre without anyone being in the same space.”

Who: Porch Light Theatre
What: TIN CAN TELEPHONE
Length: Approximately 40 minutes
Where: Hamilton Fringe Festival Digital Performance Series
When: July 15-25, 2021
Tickets: Starting at $5 through the Hamilton Fringe Festival 

Photo courtesy of Porch Light Theatre.

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