New work by excited writers Everything is theatre, I believe. A leaf falling from a tree, a miserable-looking commuter standing at a bus stop in the rain; any outside event into which a viewer may interpret a story is theatre. It’s shapeless theatre, and completely dependent on the ‘audience’ to make something of it for themselves (assuming they are even aware of it happening) but it’s theatre. Daydreams and visions are not theatre – divorced from immediate, tangible events, they are not being interpreted by the dreamer but are in fact interpreting the dreamer to themselves – though they are the stuff from which theatre is born.
Or, just my pretentious musings.
What is undeniably true, however, is the excitement of watching new playwrights transmit fresh, raw experiences onto a stage and learning to shape their ideas on the hoof. When guided by open yet experienced professionals in this formative time of their career, the results, whether magnificent or dodgy, are windows looking upon what folks will be watching and talking about and feeling stirred up by in the future.
Seven nascent playwrights, most still students at Studio 58, present their work at Langara College with the latest round of Four Play: New Works by Excited Writers.
Red Bill, by Michael Eisner, is about three young guys deeply immersed in the drug scene who find themselves in way over their heads. While ostensibly about the mechanics of a drug deal gone bad, as Eisner explains, “the topic of drugs is just a vehicle to express humanity’s ugliness.”
Lachlan Stewart’s What We Want takes place at a bus stop. A paranoid and pent-up engineering student, frustrated with the seeming vagaries of “Art”, while his own world of money and career seems rational yet unfulfilling, begins constructing tensions between the art and science students sharing the stop with him.
Versus Reality looks at the notion of life as entertainment. In Kyle Jespersen’s frantic comedy, Arthur, a struggling actor, agrees to become the subject of his own reality show, but what we see is not the edited, processed, fictionalised non-fiction of Survivor, but the even weirder life lived before the cameras have devoured it. A non-fiction fictionalised non-fiction… fiction. “Reality Theatre,” as Jespersen calls it.
Outside the Gallery is an umbrella collection of four short pieces, all set outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. Nicole Gordon’s Crash Into Stars, tells of semi-unrequited love between a loafer and a Starbucks barista who regularly passes him while he lounges on the steps of the VAG, then one day faints into his arms.
Anything, by Jacob Blair is about two guys living up their lives on those same damn steps, spicing up the monotony with booze and drugs, until some other dude, bored with watching them every day, confronts them. (Huh. Wonder which of the three is in more need of a life.) The Moment, by Naomi Sider, is a short piece about Dana, an art student on assignment, who inadvertently snaps a photo of a person the instant before they are killed by a car. Finally, there’s Nathan Zeitner’s Gorilla What? Says Zeitner, “It’s about two street girls, their bad-ass boyfriend and a gorilla. And… that’s about it.”
Actually, I’m pretty sure the title of the last work is Gorilla What? The tape recorder worked fine but my taking-dictation skills suck, so I might have that one wrong. The point is, there’s gorillas in it and that’s enough for me. In fact, my interviewing skills are fairly awful as well. My favourite part of this chat occurred near the end when I accidentally almost started a fight with Eisner over an unintentional insinuation that he might himself be a former drug addict. Nervous coughs and hilarity ensued, which you can get a better sense of in the larger but still edited transcript posted on onlymagazine.ca. The point of a good interview is to ask interesting questions then fade out of sight as the subjects respond in fascinating ways. Myself, though, I tend to try and shape the conversations, reactions, and events to match what I personally find entertaining. Which is why I can often be seen standing in parks in the autumn shouting at the fallen leaves, “Okay, let’s try that again, dammit, with more feeling!”
Four Play— New Work by Excited Writers runs March 15 to April 2, 2006 at Studio 58, Langara College. Tickets at 604 257 0366