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Posts Tagged ‘catalyst theatre’

This morning I was lounging at the Edmonton airport, waiting for my flight to Calgary, when I noticed a familiar someone walking toward me: Jonathan Christenson (Artistic Director of Catalyst Theatre, in case that wasn’t clear!) was supposed to arrive at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver a little earlier than the cast, so he was on my flight. We had a full hour to chat on the plane, which was really nice considering I hadn’t had much chance to corner him into conversation over the last week; rehearsal time was, naturally, focussed on rehearsal.

It occurred to me several times this week how truly lucky I am: for a full six days, I was invited to visit with a company I adore, attend rehearsals conducted by a director I admire, and spend free time with a cast of talented performers who were super nice to me. Not bad, huh?

I caught the last week of rehearsals before the company moved onto Vancouver for tech runs in the Arts Club Theatre on Granville Island. Much of this week consisted of running the show several times – so I could probably replicate and recite most of the choreography and lyrics – still a lot of time was spent reworking scenes, adding in elements of harmonization, and working through an entirely new song.

Garett Ross and Vanessa Sabourin

Jonathan was in the studio every day from 10am until 6pm, working with the actors and any designers who were also present. Often the sound designer Wade Staples was there taking notes, and then sometimes disappearing to create new songs for the production that were quickly worked into rehearsal. Choreographer Laura Krewski usually came by in the mornings to work on the new choreography or to review the other scenes; she would check in frequently with Jonathan to ensure that the movement matched the idea of the scene. Resident Designer Bretta Gerecke was not around this week, but there were a few people fixing up props and costumes, coming into the studio with new materials with which to experiment. Often the actors would rehearse with these items, as they really affected the stance of the characters (see photo at left).

Watching the performers rehearse, I was reminded of Sterling’s blog post that he had written after seeing Nevermore at the Magnetic North. He commented on the “uncompromising and absolute commitment from the actors” — and that is exactly what I witnessed in rehearsal. This group of 20&30 somethings were perfectly silly during break time, but in rehearsal, they were the most hardworking, meticulous bunch with an impressive amount of energy; the amount of lunges they have to do… it’s intimidating. To my knowledge, these are not trained dancers, and yet the show demands a high degree of physicality from beginning to end.

the mouse scene

What I found fascinating about this rehearsal process is that while the company was always working toward creating a great show, the focus was never really on the so-called opening night. Since the company tours the production and continues to work on it between runs, there never really is an official opening night, but rather a series of opportunities to showcase what has been worked on thus far. But this by no means indicates that the creation process is complete; in fact, the show is never really finished until the company stops touring it.

This might be a useful question for my research: do we, as theatre practitioners, put too much focus on the idea of opening night (i.e. that a “finished product” must be presented for an audience), and how does this affect the production process? Furthermore, does an audience’s expectations for opening night (i.e. that they will see this “finished product”) diminish the experience of seeing theatre that is, by its nature, ephemeral and ever-changing?

Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe plays at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver from January 1 to February 6, and at Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton from February 13 to 21.

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Okay, that’s a lie. I’m actually leaving on Air Canada. But that doesn’t sound half as romantic, and the plane will probably be late, and there will be all sorts of complications, and I’ll lose my suitcase, and there will be jet lag and general nausea…

I mean, yay! traveling!

This Sunday I am leaving Ottawa to do some research in Western Canada for my MA thesis. In case you’re not familiar with my academic work, I am currently studying at the University of Ottawa in the new Master of Arts program in Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy. That means lots of writing.

My thesis examines the role of festivals in the consecration and distribution of new works. I’m researching three different companies – Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton, the Old Trout Puppet Workshop in Calgary, and Electric Company Theatre in Vancouver – and looking at how their productions have developed through the process of touring and participating in festivals. Here’s hoping it’ll be awesome and revolutionary; or at least that I’ll pass the program…

Here is my itinerary so far:

  • EDMONTON – January 10 to 17
    Purpose: visiting with Catalyst Theatre and attend rehearsals for Nevermore. Also visiting with the Artist in Residence at the Citadel Theatre. Oh, and freezing to death in the street.
  • CALGARY – January 17 to 28
    Purpose: seeing shows at the High Performance Rodeo (long-running international festival created by members of One Yellow Rabbit) and getting the general vibe of the event. Hopefully visiting the workspace of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop.
  • VANCOUVER – January 28 to February 7
    Purpose:
    seeing shows at the PuSh Festival (newer international festival) and meeting with Norman Armour. Also visiting the Electric Company Theatre and finding out more about their first show Brilliant! The Blinding Enlightenment of Nikola Tesla. I’ll be seeing the following shows at the PuSh Festival: Joan of Arc, Clark and I…, Passion Project, Edward Curtis, Sonic Genome, Nevermore, Best Before, and Kamp.

I will try not to have too much fun because this is supposed to be a research trip for academic purposes and I’m going to be working really hard. At least that’s what I’m telling the university…

Check back on this blog for more details: I’ll be posting reviews of shows, sharing travel stories, and disclosing fun theatre gossip. Stay tuned!

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