Canadian artists going digital so they can keep performing in during pandemic

Artists normally touring Canada aren’t able to due to COVID-19. Musicians, dancers, and playwrights have created a live streaming performance every Monday, where audience members give suggestions that are turned into songs and performances.

By Mark Neufeld

WINNIPEG – Artists are asking you to tell them what to do in a new streaming series out of Manitoba.

Musicians, dancers, and playwrights–who could normally be seen touring Canada–are now performing online and are inviting audiences to get in on the creativity.

So You Have An Idea is the name of the show, where professional performing artists interact with audience suggestions to bring your ideas to life.

“Artists who are used to being in front of an audience are finding ways to present our work,” explained Cory Wojcik, one of the creators and the host of So You Have An Idea.

“Were used to just going out on the stage and the audience be there, and now all of a sudden we’re doing this film-theater combo. And I think what I realized for myself is we need to lean into that medium, we have to work with it.”

Wojcik was performing in a theatre production in Vancouver last March when the pandemic forced an end to his art. He, and many other artists, was forced to return home.

Wojcik came up with the idea for the show in collaboration with the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, which accessed funding through the Safe at Home grant to start filming.

The show collects audience suggestions made the week prior and transforms them into a piece to be showcased by the playwriters, dancers and musicians each Monday.

“The audience decides by vote where those ideas will go. Which artists is going to get which idea. So not even the artists know,” said Wojcik.

“In my previous years, before COVID hit, I had, you know, the luxury, the privilege, of touring all around the world with lots of cool bands like the Sheepdogs, the Weakerthans, Imaginary Cities,” said Rusty Matays, who is an award-winning producer from Winnipeg.

Matays has played and worked with some of Canada’s top musical talent. He says when COVID-19 hit and people got stuck at home he decided to set up a home studio in his basement and is now helping host and perform in the show.

He says it’s been great for helping him flex his creative muscles again. Last week Maytas wrote a song about the “ice cream vaccination truck.”

“When you have to write within a week, you make quick decisions. You kind of write with reckless abandon, you make decisions you wouldn’t make otherwise, and so I made all these quick decisions and man do I ever love it. I think I’m going to write more like this now. It was a super fun experience,” he said.

The shows start every Monday at 7:30 p.m. CST and are free for anyone to attend.

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