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Theatre group goes old school

Putting on a play in person is still off the table just now, but that is not stopping the Cambridge Community Players from taking another route for their upcoming production of The Maltese Falcon.

In this case the theatre group is opting to go back to the days of old, bringing this version of the play to an audio format.

Originally set to premiere on May 14, the production was pushed back to May 28 because COVID-19 restrictions upended their plans to record the play at a local radio station earlier in the month.

Based on the book by Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon has been adapted into films and plays over the years. This version is directed for the Cambridge Community Players by Martin Smith, who is no stranger to creating audio plays. While he believes this is the first audio play to come from the theatre group, he says he has used this format in many instances over the years, and that this play is perfect to tell through audio because of its successful track record.

“I’ve been doing some (audio plays) with Ichthys Theatre in Brantford, they’re doing a series of Sherlock Holmes audio shows. Going further back in my life when I lived out west, I worked for a radio station and we actually did a series of audio productions back then as well. [But] as far as I know in the history – and no one could tell me otherwise – it doesn’t mean it wasn’t done way, way back, but no one can remember Cambridge Community Players ever doing one [of their own audio plays before],” said Smith. “We can’t use the theatre and we still want to keep actors acting and keep people busy and offer something to the public. It’s being offered free with a GoFundMe donation if people want to [give one] …It helps that this play has been done like this before.”

The group got the green light to move ahead with the audio play format at the end of March, with everything coming together fairly quickly. The original plan was to do what Smith did in his radio days, going into a station to record. The pandemic soon put an end to that idea, forcing the cast and crew to come up with a new plan.

“We were going to record it at a local radio station – which is what I did for the other one with the Brantford theatre company – but because of regulations nobody was allowed to gather. This delayed us for a couple of weeks. Basically, we’re moving the audio equipment from one person to another. So, we’re recording one person, then you gather up the equipment and take it elsewhere and they record. We’re just keeping everyone safe and away from each other,” said Smith.

The cast rehearsed for weeks via Zoom to prepare for the production. Once recording is done, the editing process will take place, adding in sound effects and more to make the play ready for the audience.

Smith says there are talks to continue working with audio plays over the next little while, however, not revealing what the next play will be, nor when it will come out.

The play is set to air on May 28 at 7 p.m.

The cast includes Kristine Fortner (announcer), Valerie Harrison (Spade), Margo Prunean (Brigid), Corina Dunn (Cairo), Gary Draper (Wilmer) and David Terry (Gutman).

For more information, and to listen to the play when it comes out, visit the group’s website.

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