Local Theatre in Windsor
Weathers the Global Pandemic
Story by Matthew St. Amand
If there is one thing the global pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, has taught the world, it’s the importance of our artists. As daily life around the world ground to a halt in late March, stranding everyone in their homes, among the few comforts to see us through have been movies, music, and television shows.
With a ban on public gatherings, making live performances an impossibility, how have local
theatre companies fared during this extraordinary time? Windsor Life Magazine sat down with Michael K. Potter of Post Productions, and Rob Tymec of Monkeys With a Typewriter, to find out:
Full disclosure: I am a veteran audience member of both companies’ work and privileged to have had them each perform plays I have written.
Michael Potter, managing director of Windsor’s Post Productions, says that the global pandemic
became real to him when the Ghost Light Players’ successful performance of God of Carnage was
unceremoniously canceled due to the lockdown.
“Then, of course, Stratford and Broadway closed,” Michael adds. “As it turned out, 2020 was shaping up to be a great year at The Shadowbox”—Post Productions’ theatre space—“we had more bookings than ever before. But by the end of March, we knew we were in uncharted territory.”
Theatre folk, however, are not easily daunted.
So, Post Productions carried on with pre-production preparations for shows already in the pipeline. “We held auditions and rehearsals using Zoom,” Michael explains. “When we were finally allowed to gather in small groups, we moved to The Shadowbox, making sure everyone was masked and properly distanced.”
One critical factor that allows Post Productions to remain viable has been their landlord at The Shadowbox.
“We have really, really supportive landlords,” Michael says. “The Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator has been great to work with. We wouldn’t have survived through the summer without them.”
In the coming months, Post Productions plans to mount Martin McDonagh’s play The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which will run November 27, 28, December 3, 4, 5, 19, 20 and 21. In the new year, my play, Negatunity, will run January 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30.
For anyone wondering why the artists at Post Productions have so doggedly hung on, the answer is simple: live theatre possesses everything we have all missed during the global pandemic—human interaction.
“Theatre is a shared experience,” Michael says. “The actors feed off the energy of the audience, and people are starved for this kind of entertainment. We’re following all health protocols—seating is at twenty-five percent capacity to maintain safe social distancing in the theatre. Masks are required.”
Even with an abiding love of theatre and the exhaustive planning, Michael admits, “We’re operating on a sheer force of will.”
That may just be enough.
One-man powerhouse, Rob Tymec and his company, Monkeys With a Typewriter, also took the lockdown right on the chin.
“I had three or four shows scheduled, at the time,” Rob recalls. “The pandemic hit everyone in the community hard. Everybody had to cancel shows.”
Rob was in the process of re-mounting his successful drama, Moments of Clarity, when the world shutdown.
“I wasn’t going to put anyone in danger,” Rob explains. News of the lockdown seemed to hit people in different ways. Various patrons messaged Rob, asking if he was sure he had to shutdown. Rob was adamant and his co-star, Michelle Mainwaring, was in total agreement—they would take no chances with their audience’s safety.
During the ensuing lockdown, Rob shifted gears. He is not only an actor/director, but also a talented writer.
“The lockdown gave me time to work on the next part of my ‘Tales of Misery’ series,” Rob says. Moments of Clarity is the first installment. “I also accepted some commissions, which kept me busy.”
Aside from those projects, Rob is also compiling stories from his successful “Local Hauntings” ghost walk performances. Since 2007, he has led fans of the supernatural around Amherstburg and Olde Sandwich Towne, relating stories of hauntings and paranormal activity that have been witnessed in the areas.
“I decided it was time to collect these stories in a book,” Rob explains. “Over the years, I’ve listened to about five hundred ghost stories in order to get a hundred good ones.” He is currently shopping a sample of the work around to local publishers.
In between these projects, Rob also reviews science fiction TV shows. A recognized Dr. Who scholar, he was approached by a publisher to review the classic and |new Dr. Who series. These were so well-received, the publisher asked him to review Star Trek Next Generation. As a test, he was assigned an episode reviled by fans. Rob took a creative approach and crushed the review, framing it as a series of fictional memos, back and forth, from the producers and director.
As king of the one-man shows in Essex County, Rob was the first to perform live theatre when the area entered Phase III in mid-August.
“I re-mounted my one-man show, A Hero’s Journey Through Plot Inconsistencies,” Rob says. The show is a one-man extravaganza written by and performed by Rob. The story draws upon his encyclopedic knowledge of sci-fi pop culture, weaving together an original storyline involving Star Wars, Star Trek and the venerable Dr. Who.
What’s next for Rob?
“Like everybody else,” Rob says, “I’m following updates on the pandemic and adjusting with the changing situation. I’ll be announcing more upcoming shows on my Facebook page.”
More information about Post Productions can be found on their website PostProductionsWindsor.ca.
Shadowbox Theatre is located at the corner of Howard and Shepherd, 103B – 1501 Howard Ave.
Updates on Rob Tymec’s shows can be found on the Monkeys With a Typewriter Facebook page facebook.com/Monkeys-With-A-Typewriter-Theatre-Company.