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Thornhill Theatre Space Announces International TTS Virtual Fringe Festival

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The festival will run throughout August.

Thornhill Theatre Space Announces International TTS Virtual Fringe Festival

HAMILTON is ham-strung, Sondheim is suspended, and it could be another five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes before our starving artists can afford to pay the RENT.

These days it's not only The Phantom who has to wear a mask and, let's face it, now it is Dr Fauci who is there inside your mind.

The world is in pandemic free-fall.

How will the theatre community survive when, at rise, a host of producers and performers across the globe are watching helplessly as all their hard work seems to be disappearing in a counter-clockwise swirl of water flushing down the toilet?

How can we be sure not to let artists see the fruits of their labor wither on the vine?

In these extraordinary times the shift to broadcasts of virtual performances might be a saving grace for some.

Someone who is determined to provide a platform for virtual performances is Ryan Thornhill. In July his Thornhill Theatre Space announced their international TTS Virtual Fringe Festival which will run throughout August. One project to be included is 'Tolpuddle! The Musical', relating the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

One of the creators is Margarita Partridge, co-founder of 'Walk-on Part Productions', who describes it as "A true historical tale, portraying the Martyrs' experiences of Politics, Persecution, Prison and Pardon."

Six English agricultural laborers attempt to form a farm workers' union to implore the wealthy landowners to pay them a living wage. The landowners instead inflict the cruel punishment of a pay cut on them, and then conspire to have them unjustly convicted on trumped-up charges in a rigged court trial. Their dastardly deeds result in the Tolpuddle Martyrs being transported by prison ship thousands of miles away from home to a brutal penal colony in Van Diemen's Land, Australia.

The play explores the plight of the Martyrs whose extended confinement separated them from their loved ones for years.

The project has collaborators in the US, Europe, Great Britain, Holland and Australia. Sam Diedrich in Massachusetts composed a piece about the secret oath that the Martyrs swore; Jack Lewis in Australia wrote about the courtroom trial; the two lead players, Terell Davy and Nina Garcia also wrote songs for the play.

Partridge draws a comparison to the current isolation and frustration of theatre artists during the COVID quarantine.

"It will be a while before we will be 'out in the surrey with a fringe on top'.

Instead we're all going stir crazy, having traded Saturday Night Fever for cabin fever.

This pandemic crisis is bringing mental health to the brink; people are experiencing destructive stress, like that of caged rats. Surrounded by the very real threat of death and disaster, some have already lost everything; many are holding on by a gossamer thread, spiraling down into the depth of despair and hopelessness. Their previous relative privilege is fast turning to poverty.

The worth of these virtual platforms is inestimable in making an opening available for creators to get some hard fought-for attention to their work; some publicity for their projects, and to get their productions out there.

This is why virtual events in entertainment are so vital to the creators and performers in maintaining a connection to their community.

From the perspective of the artist in extended isolation, it is a way to stay involved and feel included; virtual performance opportunities provide a valuable link to the outside and bring a sense of purpose; of a first step onto the spectrum of long sought-after success.

People like Ryan Thornhill and Musical Theatre Radio's Jean-Paul Yavonoff open up an important opportunity, providing exposure for newer productions.

Because of virtual performance platforms artists are able to 'rise up and take a shot'."

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