Herbert The Cow returns with another ambitious theatre production

Category: stage 179

Skitties, the Second Coming: Messages from God brings together more than 30 Fredericton area theatre artists for a series of online performances October 14-16.

Matt Carter 

The Fredericton-based theatre company Herbert The Cow rarely produces more than one show a year. But these are strange times and strange times can be unpredictable.  

Skitties, the Second Coming: Messages from God, is a play on and about faith that asks, what if every single person on earth received a message from God at the exact same time? What would that look like? And what if every message was different?

The play is directly inspired by HTC’s second-ever theatre show which took place twenty years ago. Reimagined for 2021, Skitties, the Second Coming: Messages from God is, in a way, both an old idea and something completely new. 

“If 18 months ago you asked me if I would ever revisit any of my early work, Skitties would have been at the absolute bottom of the list,” said HTC Artistic Director Corenski Nowlan, who has until now resisted the idea of creating a theatre show strictly as an online experience. 

“At the beginning of the pandemic everyone started doing online theatre. Not just here, but theatre artists everywhere. So many people kept asking me if Herbert would do an online show. People just assumed we would. The truth is, the magic of what we do is the live experience. We often break the fourth wall, we love audience interaction, and we do some pretty gimmicky stuff that you can’t really replicate online,” said Nowlan.

“But I never said no to anyone who asked if we would do an online show. I just said, it would have to be a really good idea.”

As it turns out, the “really good idea” Nowlan was waiting for was staring him right in the face the whole time. A framed poster from the original Skitties production hangs on a wall in his apartment. 

“The original Skitties production was a hybrid of filmed performances and live actors,” said Nowlan. “It featured fifteen monologues on God, or religion in general. Some performed on stage and some pre-recorded and projected on the wall. 

“20 years ago I was very interested in film, but I wasn’t good at it,” he said. “We tried though with the limited equipment and knowledge we had. Over the years we’ve incorporated a lot of short film segments into Herbert’s live shows.”

Drawing on both a specific past production and his past experience creating theatre that challenges audiences, Nowlan decided to explore the idea of creating an online production in a way that mixes live and pre-recorded monologues.

“The idea was there but it needed refinement,” he said. “Over the years, one thing that started bothering me about the first Skitties was the lack of continuity. The eponymous character Skitties opened the show and then the audience didn’t see him again until the end. All of the monologues in between lacked connective tissue because the initial premise, Monologues on God, is so vast. 

“I thought about how to refine the premise and through talks with my co-production team Brennan Garnett and Devin Rockwell, we came up with the idea of Messages from God. One day, every person on the earth hears the voice of God. Just briefly. The problem is everyone hears a different message. All 8 billion humans hear their own personalized message. I believe it’s very timely because the world feels like a mess on every level. It’s not just the pandemic, it’s political, environmental, and social. We’re living in scary times and if you’re religious you might be questioning your faith and wondering where is God.

A vast concept deserves a vast cast. For this production, Nowlan and his team have brought together a massive cast featuring theatre artists with ties to just about every theatre company in the city. Skitties, the Second Coming: Messages from God includes the work of eight writers and twelve actors along with video producers, songwriters and a special guest appearance by members of Nasty Shadows Theatre Co.

“The whole show will be live streamed on Twitch,” said Nowlan. “My co-host Amanda Thorne and I will be performing our skits live each night from my home, as will some other select actors. 

“One cool thing about watching live is that Twitch has a chat window. Viewers will be able to post their thoughts and talk to the hosts and our tech crew in real time. It’s all online but in a way, it’s still going to have that audience interaction that Herbert the Cow is known for.”

Skitties, the Second Coming: Messages from God | October 14-16 | 7:30 p.m. | Online | View Event


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