The ECHO Players Youth Group can’t wait to get back on the stage in Qualicum Beach as they make plans for 2021.
Ben Rosnau, 18, a member of the group, said that while they had plenty of plans at the start of 2020, they have left the stage empty and haven’t been able to do any performances.
March was when he got the feeling things would look different for their group this year when a member got sick and they decided call off performances and rehearsals.
“We have stayed active, though,” said Rosnau. “We just finished a playwriting competition on Dec. 1, which was great. We had a panel of judges and everything. It was just a fun and safe thing to do for this time.”
The group is currently in the planning stages for what they’d like 2021 to look like.
“The theatre recently invested in some livestreaming tech, so we’re looking at doing some livestreamed performances in April or May. We’re still trying to pick plays and get people to direct and act in shows. Just get ourselves together.”
Since March this year, the youth group has kept themselves together predominately through online meetings with the core group of six or seven members. Rosnau said the core group numbers do fluctuate from time to time.
During the early days of the pandemic, the youth group did a few online play readings, where they read through a script together online, to keep both active and in practice.
“We’ve been meeting and planning and trying to adapt the best we can,” said Rosnau.
In total, he estimates the group itself consists of 40 members within ECHO Players, who they often draw from for performances. Though will often have open auditions to encourage anyone who’s interested in performing even if they aren’t a member.
Many active members of the youth group attend either KSS or Ballenas Secondary. But in the past, had people in their ‘core group’ who were still in elementary school.
“We’ve also had people in our productions come from Nanaimo, so we can have people come from all mid-Island to perform.”
The group first started two years ago, and as a relatively new group Rosnau is part of the “first core of people.” Because of this, the group hasn’t had a whole class move through yet but they are getting to the stage where people who were at the founding are getting closer to graduation. Rosnau is still involved but admits he’s part of the process in helping to find new members and build the next generation to “carry it forward.”
The group itself does not rely on strict age restrictions, but their current core members are age 12 and up right now. In terms of productions, Rosnau said they take on “whoever they need.”
“In our first show we needed an old man, so we cast one of the ECHO members who was in their 70s. We’re really open to people of all ages in helping out.”
November 2019 was the last time the group was able to complete a live production on stage.
“Last year we did a small play called The Philadelphia by David Ives. It was a small three-person cast, all youth-directed and managed.”
In reflecting on the group this last year, Rosnau said “everything’s really turned upside down.” He went from rehearsing six days a week to “basically nothing” overnight. He said it made everything more difficult in ways of organizing and getting other members excited while the entire group is “stuck in thier homes” and unable to interact in ways they’re familiar with.
“I think that we’ve had a unique advantage though, in that we’re all younger so we’ve grown up on the internet and we’re all able to see online content. Adapting to that kind of space is more natural and easy for us.”
He said they “can’t wait to get back on stage next year,” ideally in front of a live audience once it’s safe. For the rest of 2021 though, Rosnau believes the group with focus on livestreaming as it’s their safest option but remains hopeful that “things turn around with the vaccine” and they’ll be able to get back on stage soon enough.
“That’s what we love to do. It would be really great to get back in there.”
For information, visit www.echoplayers.ca.