The Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre (KWLT) has partnered with the City of Waterloo to bring an improvised soap opera to the area through a podcast/web series ‘Around the Square,’ weekly throughout March.
Peter Aitchison, a board member of KWLT who took on the role of manager, is directing, producing and editing the series alongside his fellow team members and the eight actors on screen.
“I was playing around with ideas of what can we do, by ourselves in our homes together on the internet,” he said of the project’s origins.
KWLT was then reached out to be the City of Waterloo who was interested in reviving an outdoor improv series that was forced to shut down due to the pandemic.
“When the city came to us, in probably late November, early December, and said, ‘we used to do this soap opera in the Waterloo Town Square, and we weren’t able to so we were thinking of maybe doing a radio drama or something’ and asking for our help. I thought, ‘I think I can do one better. I’ve been playing around with this idea, and if we get people in their homes, set up with a camera and a green screen, we might be able to cut something together that works.’”
And so Around the Square was born.
The series centers on controlled chaos in real-world environments.
“When we came into it, there was a general framework of don’t try and get anywhere. The minute you try and insert yourself into the process, you end up manipulating it and missing out on the magic that happens when a group comes together and just allow the story to tell itself.”
Originally episodes were expected to run at three minutes per scene, totalling some 30 minutes, but have been cut down. Aitchison estimates his team (Monica Maika, the executive producer and audio editor, assisting director Joe Gull and Paul Budel tech team and original score maker) put in a collective 80 hours weekly perfecting the episodes in addition to three, three-hour rehearsals per week.
Above all, the production asks for viewers’ engagement, requesting them to submit a single word or photograph to the KWLT team using the hashtag #KWLTimprov.
“Send us words. It doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t matter where it comes from, just a word. Because we start every episode with a word that creates a theme, which we then use to inspire our characters in this little world we’ve created. We also have people sending us photos, and that’s a lot of fun. Take a picture of a place in Waterloo, and send it to EP@kwlt.org and we’ll try and put our actors in that space. So, if you think it might be funny, present us with something to work with – we’ll see what we can do.”
Now halfway through the production, the possibility of creating something similar in the future is a possibility.
“We’ve got new skills, we’ve got new equipment, the idea that we could, put up these green screens and cameras in our rehearsal space, and a have it there so that people could go in and play. Literally, just play and create content, and then share.”
KWLT is currently accepting donations online. All Around the Square can be listened to on any major podcast streaming services or watched on the Create Waterloo YouTube channel or on Instagram TV @createwaterloo.