The inability of theatre companies to put on their productions and to take part in live festivals continues to inspire innovation. Currently creating a brand for themselves is a group of students at the University of Edinburgh, with support from the Edinburgh University Theatre Company (EUTC) that has come up with The Scottish Online Student Drama Festival (SOSDF).
Online theatre is not a compromise. It’s an art form in its own right.
Head Organiser Lois Zonnenberg says, “The Scottish Student Drama Festival was created as a way to do collaborative theatre regardless of location, to connect people who are passionate about theatre from all across the country. Through organising this festival, we have created some great online theatre productions, and united over 20 student theatre companies to work together towards a larger goal: raising money for an amazing cause.”
EUTC usually hosts its annual theatre festival in January, but COVID-19 restrictions made that impossible. Now, instead of just a few shows, what has emerged is a collaboration with many different student theatre companies from all over the UK. The week-long festival, espousing over forty digitals events, is due to take place from March 8th-14th. It has also gone beyond performance to providing social events and workshops with industry professionals.
SOSDF stresses that ‘online theatre is not a compromise. It’s an art form in its own right, and when its potential is fulfilled, productions can be created which rival those on stage’. It’s something that many practitioners have pointed out. As the society goes on to say, “The pandemic has taught theatre makers a new way to produce theatre, and the skills that they will have learned will be invaluable going forward, as we slowly transition back to normality, always remembering the options to do shows online, and to be able to use these skills, should they ever want, or need to, again”.
Entry to the shows is free but there are opportunities to make donations to the Festival’s chosen charity, Acting For Others. The charity is famous for its bucket collections in theatres during the last two weeks of October, but it accepts donations all year round. Now, more than ever, many people in the industry with illnesses, disabilities and family demands are in need of their assistance. The annual event arose in support of an idea hatched by Laurence Olivier, Noël Coward and Richard Attenborough, in the 1960’s, with the formation of The Combined Theatrical Charities Appeals Council. The umbrella body was formed ‘to distribute income from legacies and fundraising events to the 14 theatrical member charities’, and with the intention of having a single annual fund-raising event as additional support.
All SOSDF events can be accessed and booked from the website, https://www.sosdf.co.uk/, which offers direct booking directly if the event is live, or the option to sign up for the daily briefing which provides links to all of the prerecorded events, hosted largely on the SOSDF YouTube channel.