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U of L’s Identuality mainstage production is an online exploration of identity

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The University of Lethbridge Drama department has been forced to adapt to Covid , like all other arts groups, so their first mainstage production of the year will be a Zoom experience, which runs Nov. 17-21 online.
 Sixteen performers from all over the country have explored the idea of identity for the show, entitled Identuality.
“We’ve been working on a really interesting and dynamic piece of devised virtual theatre,” said director Jay Whitehead, noting devised theatre meant the cast and crew built the show from scratch.

The U of L's production of Identuality runs. Nov. 17-21. Photo Submitted
“ The whole show takes place over Zoom. It’s basically a collage of different reflections on different types of identity. Some are solo pieces, and some are group pieces. But ultimately its a reflection on a theme. And we go deep into these ideas and thoughts. The cast is very brave in sharing their stories.  And I think that people will find that though it’s being watched  via Zoom it through Zoom that it still feels like live theatre because  there is that connection to you through the camera  But and I thing people will be shocked and surprised by that,” Whitehead said.

“We didn’t start with a script as we typically would in theatre. We actually used the stories of the 16 cast members we’ve assembled to explore themes of identity and sexuality. So the piece contains everything from monologues, to original poetry and music. Really it is just an exploration of identity in all its various forms,“ Whitehead continued, noting despite the distance, the cast dug deep and bared their souls.

“When you’re talking about issues of identity, these are the things you hold really close to our hearts,” Whitehead said.
“We really delved into each cast member’s story and how they identify. As far as each cast member was willing to share. The process became very personal and personal stories that were shared around identity sexuality, gender, religious, racial, all kinds of identities,” he said adding he went into the process with a little bit  of trepidation about how to to create a theatrical production out of their stories.

 Whitehead was impressed with how close the cast congealed despite not being together.
“ The cast was able to become an ensemble just as if we were in the same room though we were scattered  scattered across two provinces and a territory,” he said.

Actor Kacie Hall enjoyed hearing the other cast members’ stories.

“We have just been exploring the stories of all the different cast members and it’s been a really really cool experience to be be a part of. Because I am queer, but ’s it’s been cool to hear the experience of other queer folks  in the department and learn about different parts of the LGBQ community,” said actor Kacie Hall, adding she missed out on  the physical aspect of acting.

“It’s been easier than expected. We were all really worried about not being able to form that cast bond, but it s been weird because you can sense the presence of other people when you’re going through  rehearsals,” Hall said.

“Normally when we have these things you’d be  you’d be able to offer some kind of physical support like giving someone a hug when they’ve had a really emotional experience. So it’s been weird that way. I’d be crying in my room and then like have nobody there to give that physical contact but you’d still feel that comfort through that screen. It’s been a unique experience in and of itself. No-one was really expecting that to come out of it,” Hall continued.
 Hall noted it was important to not only explore trauma, but how people perceive themselves.

“We have a piece about media representation and how important it is. People have such stereotypes about minority groups’ pain and suffering. It’s  really important to include  these representations to show there . There is a lot of trauma associated with a lot of minority groups but so much strength from being part of these groups as well. So that’s been very important to explore,” Hall said.

Whitehead enjoyed working with the young cast and learning what they think about identity issues.
“It’s been interesting from someone from an older generation to work with a younger generation to get a sense of how they approach identity and how important it is or not important it is to them. We’ve had a lot of conversations around that. And it has been really enlightening for me as an older gay man as in these trouble times to learn how we find some comfort through the way we identify and the communities we build around that,” he said.

 Whitehead had to deal with some unique technological challenges, coordinating people with different wi fi and devices in different locations.

“Everybody’s rising to the occasion. We have a wonderful staff and team of student  designers. who are making the tech work.  So far so good,” he said.

Whitehead has already been doing  online theatre with Theatre Outré and Impromptu this summer.

When you buy your ticket to Identuality from the U of Lethbridge box office you’ll be given a link and a password to log into the Zoom webinar to watch the piece live. Tickets are $10 per registration.
Tickets for Identuality are currently on sale online only at Tickets are $10 per pass with VISA or Mastercard. Patrons are encouraged to watch the production on a desktop or laptop – viewing experiences for Identuality are not recommended on tablets or smartphones.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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