It will have been 135 days since the Canberra Theatre welcomed an audience in for a paid performance when their live Link Bar series commences this Friday, 7 August.
While their doors were shut to the public, Canberra Theatre launched [email protected] – a locally driven streaming service that’s proven hugely successful since being launched just over seven weeks ago.
It’s led by their centerpiece production, The World From Here with Chris Endrey, which has accumulated close to 15,000 views over seven episodes broadcast on Facebook – significantly more people than would have been able to fit into the 1,200-seat theatre.
The eighth and final episode of the season will be performed live before an audience and streamed this Friday 7 August to launch the four-week Link Bar series. This new series will see performances held every Friday and/or Saturday night in the Theatre’s foyer space throughout August.
Performer Chris Endrey told Canberra Weekly the idea behind The World From Here was to pick out his favourite elements of the traditional American late-night format and build from there.
“We took structures of a tonight show like having fun and playing with things, but left out the downsides … Which for me is being celebrity obsessed and focused on entertainment at the expense of substance.
“We don’t have the budget or time or capacity to make competitive TV shows here, but what we do make is an incredibly high-production streamed show, and people really value the interactivity,” he said.
Comprising pre-recorded segments, musical performances, live interviews and audience interaction, Endrey says the work that’s gone into producing each hour-long episode of The World From Here for the entire crew has been ambitious and educational.
“From a personal perspective it’s been a pretty strong work curve … It’s a very narrow turnaround writing and producing a show, then having another one to go ahead on.”
Since March, the pandemic has put not just the livelihoods of artists across the country into jeopardy, but also their mental wellbeing given the connection they feel with their audiences through live performance.
Endrey said he was “so lucky” to have the opportunity to create The World From Here in the midst of what’s been an extremely challenging time.
“If you could see a before and after photo of me two months ago it would basically be as dark as you could get in a healthy society,” he said.
“I had no work, no way to express myself, interact with others and was experiencing financial insecurity.”
Three events have been announced for the Link Bar series to date: a concert by Canberra metal band Pod People on 8 August and a Brass Knuckle Band gig on 22 August, both of which have sold out, while tickets to The World From Here are being snapped up quickly.
Endrey said seeing Canberra Theatre support local artists through the [email protected] platform and now through the Link Bar series is a positive move forward.
“It’s such a welcome direction which has come both in this time, but also alongside the new director,” he said.
“Through all my creative practice I’ve known for years there’s world class stuff here … also audiences that want to see it.
“It’s really critical if we want to keep and develop the things we have, there have to be pathways to do it.”
Theatre Director Alex Budd told Canberra Weekly his whole team have missed welcoming audiences since March, and eagerly await the chance to open their doors again at the end of the week.
“Just to be able to pull some real live artists together and get this back on has been such a lift to the mood,” he said.
The 8 August Pod People gig will be the Theatre’s first heavy metal show since 1985, when Iron Maiden stopped off on their World Slavery Tour.
Budd said the rowdy audience led to the genre being “banned” for some time due to “quite a few seats” being ripped out.
“Doom metal is something new to me, but I couldn’t think of a more fitting event to have at the end of such a period of doom and gloom,” he said.
Budd said the “immense” response to their ticketed events shows a strong desire to come out and enjoy live performance.
“It’s really encouraging … If the ACT is able to or chooses to relax restrictions during this Link Bar season, we can look toward increasing our numbers.
“What we need next is a much more wholesale return of 1,200 people a night to the Theatre, and 600 a night to the Playhouse,” he said.
Find more information on the Theatre’s Link Bar series here.
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