University of Ottawa theatre student Anne Hamels is a long-time NAC regular. Five years ago, when Anne was 13 years-old, she met artist Marie-Ève Fortier, who visited Anne’s classroom to present De plain-pied, a French Theatre project. “She was the one who got me interested in the project, and it was great. It’s so rare to have a space completely dedicated to teens, and De plain-pied was that space,” says the young woman, who subsequently got involved in other activities for teens.
She has also attended many French Theatre productions:
“The NAC presents a lot of shows by women creators and performers, and French Theatre is very proactive in this area. It’s something I really appreciate,” she explains.
She has particularly fond memories of Une femme à Berlin and Parce que la nuit, whose bold mix of genres appealed to her: “It wasn’t just theatre and music, it was much more than that. There was a real dialogue between the two forms, and the result was truly superb.”
When the closure of performance venues was announced, Anne was in rehearsal, directing her final master’s project: a University of Ottawa student production that was scheduled to open in a few weeks. “I missed one rehearsal and then all of a sudden we heard that the University was closed. It all happened very quickly and it was surreal.”
Afterwards, everything fell into place very quickly, Anne and her colleagues had two days to perform the show for their professors. The staging was adapted to make it safe. “It involved a lot of emotion and quick work in a short time. It was still exciting, and we were 100% committed to it, because it was our last chance to share our experience with people in the field, our colleagues and the professors who had guided us. It was a wonderful theatre experience, it was very moving and beautiful to see.”
Once the adrenaline subsided, she adapted to the new reality imposed by the pandemic, even if the courses proved to be a challenge. “It was an odd gradation to nothing,” says Anne, whose summer plans were turned upside down. Many artists have turned to online platforms during this period, but Anne admits that the digital medium lacks the element of human sharing that usually drives her in the performing arts. “On the one hand, it makes access to culture more democratic for anyone with a computer and Internet access. On the other hand, it takes a lot away from the integrity of theatre, because we create as a response to life, to what’s happening around us. We need the human response,” she says.
Anne is very much looking forward to getting back to the rehearsal room with her associates. “That’s what feeds me, even though I know it will be quite awhile before we can have live performances in front of an audience again.”