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Holidays At Home: Organizing A Virtual Christmas Cabaret

Featuring Katie Thurston.

This month, my friend Katie Thurston and I put together a virtual holiday cabaret, streaming joy from our homes to our viewers. We were able to feature an incredible group of performers from all across Canada when we went live on YouTube on the 19th with a delightful evening of music, memories, and more!

We had so much fun organizing, performing in, and presenting this event, as well as sharing it with everyone.

Naturally, I thought it would be fun to document our process here, and Katie was fabulous enough to join me to reflect on the experience.

JOCELYN: I had been thinking about putting together some sort of holiday show for a while, but hadn’t started because it was the summertime. In the fall, I saw Katie tweet about wanting to do something similar, so I sent her a message to see if she would be interested in working together, and she said yes!

KATIE: Around the beginning of fall I had on and off thoughts about doing a virtual cabaret near Christmas time! I had never done or put on a cabaret before so I put it on social media seeing what people thought, and a lot of people thought it would be a great idea! Then that night Jocelyn reached out to me and we talked about putting it on together and I thought it was a fantastic idea! We had never had the chance to work together in school so we were both excited to take on this project together!

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear.”

JOCELYN: This Elf quote came up a lot while we were working on organizing the cabaret. It summed up exactly what we wanted to do: spread some cheer by singing with a group of friends. We wanted to give everyone a little break from what this year has been, even just for an hour - because that’s what theatre is all about!

In a way, doing it digitally gave us a clear vision. We wanted to collectively bring cheer from our homes to the homes of our audiences.

Our goal was to keep it personal, light, and of course, showcase the amazing talent who volunteered their time to this production!

KATIE: As we discussed how we wanted the cabaret to be perceived we kept saying something fun, light and cheerful. As we went on, I think during a meeting I said his quote and we INSTANTLY were insync with each other and we knew this was the direction we wanted our show to go. We wanted to bring cheer and happiness into the show to relieve people of any stresses and to be able to sit back and relax!

I was playing around working on a show graphic and we came together wanting a cozy type of name and ended on “Holidays at Home”! We loved it and from there on that was our show title!

When it came to building our lineup, of course we wanted to feature our friends!

Organizing shows during this difficult time can sometimes be complicated, there’s a lot of a pressure on everybody. So we reached out, asked around, and were so thrilled to have so much talent on board!

Our final lineup included:

Breannah Deschaine, Coral Benzie, Jeff Hookings, Tanner Homonko, Kassandra DeLong, Tristan Giroux, Clara MacLeod, Dallis Brinkman, Sarah MacMillan, Justan Myers, Thalia Ranjbar, Rachel Lloyd, Joey McDunough, Camille Blott, Jonathan Voisine, Jade McLeod, Samantha Sendas, Abi Oliphant, and Malinda Carroll.

Of course, we joined the set list, wanting to not only spread some joy, but also have the opportunity to perform as we close out this year.

JOCELYN: One thing that was important to me from the beginning was to arrange that everything be self-taped and then edited together. From my last project, I learned about the technical difficulties that come with trying to create something completely live. It meant that we could present something clean and polished without having to worry as much about the tech side of things. It also gave us more flexibility with those performing in the show, as they could put things together when they had the time!

Aside from the self-tapes of the songs and dances, we asked for a few other videos from everyone performing, to kind of round-out the cabaret style and make it more personal.

Everyone sent in a little recording of their favourite holiday tradition or memory to disperse throughout. It was another way to personalize it and hopefully, get everyone excited for the holidays. It actually turned out to be my favourite piece of our little show, listening to what has brought everyone joy during this time of year.

Katie also put together a brilliant “Full-House” style reel to end the show, featuring all of us doing winter activities, which is another huge highlight for me!

KATIE: As we were discussing how we wanted the show to be put together we both were fully on the same page of pre-filming all the content seeing as you can never trust live internet connections and learning from Jocelyn’s last project we knew even more now.

During a meeting we were having we were discussing format and I said I would be up to editing our show! I have always been intrigued with editing in general and have done a few small edits on videos but nothing this big.

I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to edit the show and learn even more from this experience. I brought up the idea of having a credit reel in the way of “Full House” to have something fun and cheesy at the end of the show so our performers could have some fun being goofy and more original!

It was hours and hours of footage once it was all collected but we had an exact image in our heads that together it made it so much easier and so fun because I had a lot of free range to edit how I liked and got to surprise Jocelyn with bits and pieces before we launched Holidays at Home!

JOCELYN: The goal was always to present the show on Facebook and YouTube live, then leave it up for repeated viewing over the holiday season.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an opening night without some kind of technical issue.

Our final video did NOT want to upload on these platforms, and we spent the evening pre-show FaceTiming each other to figure out if we had to postpone.

Luckily, we still made our date and time, still releasing live, but streaming only on YouTube instead! As they say, the show must go on, and I’m so glad it did!

KATIE: So starting from the night before I was working with my boyfriend who was helping me with a lot of tech issues I was having since the show file was so BIG.

We ended up having to move the show to YouTube only with 15 minutes to spare before the show went live. It was crazy stressful but worth every penny as it went smoothly and uploaded right on time with a scheduled upload and we had a fun chat room for the premiere of the show!

JOCELYN: I had seen very little of the show up to the release, as Katie bravely took on all of the editing. I was absolutely blown away by all of the hard work she did, and how beautifully it all wove together.

I love watching any sort of performance, but it is always such a treat seeing your friends do what they do best. I loved getting to witness the joy they brought to others as well as themselves by performing!

It was such a wonderful night, and it really put me in the Christmas spirit!

KATIE: I had seen the show and performances many times but as the show was going live I was beyond excited and relieved that everyone else was getting the chance to see all of the wonderful work of our cast (and my editing)!! It turned out to be such a lovely evening and it warms my heart seeing all of my friends getting to perform and be in their element. It brought a lot of Holiday cheer into the house!

This year has been extremely hard on everyone and people in the arts industry so us being able to give our friends an opportunity to perform is an amazing feeling!

Right now our show Holidays at Home is sitting at 517 views and counting! We are beyond so grateful that we got to work together, put on this amazing show and had SO much support from everyone around us!

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to share some holiday joy with you all this season.

Thank you so much to everyone who donated their time and talent to this project, and of course, everyone who tuned in not only the night of, but in the time since!

If you missed this exciting virtual event, you can still tune in at the link below!

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