Submitted photos by Petra Atebe

Submitted photos by Petra Atebe

Mission community-theatre group moves to film during pandemic

Opening Nite Theatre Society adapting annual Christmas Pantomime show

With their little 50-seat theatre shuttered because of COVID-19, a community-theatre group in Mission is finding a way to transition stories to the big screen.

Opening Nite Theatre Society (ONTS) has gotten innovative since their early-spring play, Sylvia, was shut down after just two weeks in March. Soon after, they realized that their late-spring play would also have to be cancelled.

With rent to pay, the group launched on online play-writing competition. This has led them on a journey with film.

The playwrights – some of whom hailed from as far away as Texas and Wyoming – were given one week and three keywords to create a script for a short play. The theatre group performed the winning plays in front of the camera in June, which can be viewed by donation on their website.

This fall, it became clear that it was still not safe to perform in front of a live audience, so the group is taking their annual Christmas Pantomime show to the big screen.

The script was written by director Camille Atebe, a 14-year veteran of the theatre. Joe Samorodin, who usually films the show, has ordered “giant” green screens and will be putting his editing and camera skills to work.

“Atebe, who works in film and television, has been able to organize and direct this strange conglomeration of film and live theatre, with the help of a great team of actors who are willing to learn on the fly, and Samorodin, who is doing all the technical side of things, from camera operation to lighting to editing and effects,” reads a news release from ONTS.

“Actors came in a few at a time, masked up, got in costumes and makeup and rehearsed a scene until it was ready, then the scene was filmed.”

The actors, who have been cast remotely and in bubbles, have come in one at a time to record musical tracks with musicians Lana Roberts and Tony O’Hara, and musical director, Jennie Bice.

“Cinderella, the Panto” can be purchased online and downloaded starting on Dec. 19. The group is also selling merchandise, such as Team Naughty and Team Nice t-shirts, stickers and tattoos on their website.

Merchandise can also be bought in person at the pop-up shops at the theatre on Nov. 7, Nov. 21 and Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Christmas cards, created by four young local artists, will be for sale at the shops.

“Panto has been a Christmas family tradition for so many in Mission and beyond for many years, and they are proud to be able to continue it this year,” said the news release.

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Photo courtesy of Opening Night Theatre Society.