Theatre Junction’s 2016/17 Season Marks Two Major Anniversaries

Portraits in Motion - Volker Gerling 2 - Photo credit Franz Ritschel

Volker Gerling (pictured) shares his flip book portraits with the audience in Portraits in Motion, one of seven shows announced for Theatre Junction’s 2016/17 season. Photo Credit: Franz Ritschel.

This May, Theatre Junction announced its 2016/17 season. The company’s upcoming season marks two major anniversaries: Theatre Junction’s 25th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of Theatre Junction at the Grand Theatre.

Theatre Junction has undergone several changes in the years since Artistic Director Mark Lawes founded the company in 1991. After a successful campaign to save the historic building from demolition, Theatre Junction relocated to the Grand in 2006 from the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, where the company was based for 14 years. While the company could have continued with “a program that was really more along the lines of interpreting text,” Lawes felt that it was important for Theatre Junction to change its mandate when they took over the Grand.

“There was a lot of risk involved in that change,” said Lawes. “I saw the regional theatre model as coming of age and potentially declining. The audience was getting older. It wasn’t engaging for young people to go and see work. And that was really important for me to engage millennials in arts and culture.” 

Today, Theatre Junction presents local, national, and international creation-based artists from multiple disciplines. Theatre Junction GRAND has transformed into a “different kind of cultural space” that continues the Grand’s legacy of culturalizing Calgary, while also being contemporary.

“It’s a real junction,” said Lawes about the space, which is also home to the restaurant Workshop Kitchen + Culture. “A meeting place where people come together and not only see amazing works of art, but can meet new people and talk about arts and ideas.”

One of seven shows to be presented in Theatre Junction’s upcoming season is Volker Gerling’s Portraits in Motion. Gerling’s Portraits in Motion will be presented by Theatre Junction and One Yellow Rabbit as part of the 31st Annual High Performance Rodeo. After walking 3500 km throughout Germany, Gerling created flip book portraits of the people he met on his journey. Audiences will get to see these portraits and hear the stories behind them when Gerling comes to Theatre Junction in January 2017.

“He just decided to walk and meet people,” said Lawes. “For me, it’s a beautiful, simple act of humanity. It’s going back to something very basic about meeting someone. That’s something that we all crave and need.”

Lawes says that Gerling will walk around Calgary, meeting people when he arrives in the new year. This material will not be included in the production at Theatre Junction, he adds, since “the show is set” already.

In March, Theatre Junction will present Porte Parole and Crow’s Theatre’s The Watershed. Written by Montreal playwright Annabel Soutar, who travelled cross-country across Canada with her family, The Watershed is an investigation into the future of our natural resources that raises questions concerning the politics of water.

“[Soutar] has been making documentary theatre on subjects that are important to her and her family,” said Lawes about the theatre artist. “We presented Seeds two years ago, that was [about] the Monsanto versus Schmeiser trial…It really questioned who owns a seed, who owns life.”

Lawes says that Soutar was particularly concerned about the state of water in Canada under the Harper government. “She was really concerned with policy surrounding research: what was being researched, what wasn’t being published from scientists. Funds that were being cut for research.”

When asked what goes into programming a season, especially one that includes international work, Lawes confesses that “there’s really no secrets, but it is a very long, complicated process.”

“I go out to festivals every year and see a lot of work,” Lawes said. “I have a bunch of different partners across the country and in the United States that we also talk to see what’s touring and share ideas of work. So, some works come very quickly, you know I see something I really like and it happens to be touring.

He adds that it is also about “keeping [a] dialogue open with artists who have presented before,” like Japanese dancer and choreographer Hiroaki Umeda whose new work was seen by Lawes in Montreal.

“He happened to be touring in Mexico just before he’ll be presenting here, so he was on the continent, more or less, and on the same side of the continent. So, it made some sense for him to come up here. That’s one example of how that works.”

Umeda will return to Theatre Junction in October 2016 with two new solo performances, Intensional Particle/split flow.


For more information about Theatre Junction’s 2016/17 season, including how to purchase tickets, visit their website: www.theatrejunction.com

A Tale of Imaginary Cities: Ordinary Objects Come to Life in Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities

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Olivier Ducas in Theatre de la Pire Espece’s Cities. Photo Credit: Mathieu Doyon.

Normal everyday objects can and do say a lot about a person. Think about a bookshelf, sometimes people look at a someone’s bookshelf to gather an idea of that person. Or, consider what photos people take the time to frame and put on display in their homes. Objects carry meaning, and they form a larger narrative, curated by the individual.

Presented by Theatre Junction, Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities is a series of imaginary cities, as conceived by writer/director Olivier Ducas and scenographer Julie Vallée-Léger, dissected onstage. The cities are organized in seven categories, from Sand Cities to Pocket Cities to Dual Cities. Ducas presents each city’s story to the audience by using a camera to focus on particular aspects of a city, supposedly revealing its soul in the process.

The city of Myriam, for example, has plans to replicate into near-infinity, seemingly with no originality in its plans. The main concern is growth, governed by conformist policies. Ducas starts with two red blocks, embedded vertically in a box of sand, then begins to place mirrors around the blocks to create the illusion of infinity.

For the city of Maxine, which is labelled under Ghost Cities, Ducas takes out a large wooden block with tall, slim blocks compacted together. He uses semi-opaque dividers to transform the cities’ towers into different graphs of data, explaining what each set of data says about the people living in Maxine. However, the city, Ducas tells us, has chosen to present only positive data, keeping less-than-favorable statistics about its residents hidden – at this point, a light turns on at the block’s base to reveal a negative bar graph.

The objective is subjective.

An idea of interest given that the federal government is currently asking Canadians to complete the national census, or else face fines and/or jail time. Data can be manipulated to tell or support any number of narratives. Human bias cannot be separated from the equation.

Even Ducas’ presentation of these imaginary cities is corrupted by human bias. The audience is only ever given Ducas’ interpretation of what he considers the true nature of these cities. What reference does the audience have to confirm the truth any of what Ducas says? None, not only because the cities are imaginary to begin with, but also because the audience has never visited these cities. The show should be seen as a collection of tourist propaganda, so to speak, not inherent truth.

Setting aside the problematic notion of objective truth, Cities is interesting as there is no dramatic tension that develops. The show is a journey through one man’s collection of imaginary cities. And yet, the show is oddly compelling. One reason for that is the spectacle of assembling regular objects, like sugar cubes and coffee beans, to create an intimate portrait of a city, but another is the psychology behind collecting that Ducas discusses in monologues. Why do people collect? What happens when collections are completed, when the seeking ends? Ducas suggests that for some people, collecting is less of a hobby and more of an activity in purpose seeking and fulfillment.

Interestingly, the majority of Ducas’ cities have female names (Cassandra, Gloria, Scarlett, Sylvia, Cathy, and nearly a dozen more). What comes to mind are sailors who, lonely at sea, would name their ships after wives or girlfriends. Thinking about that, what assumptions can we make about Ducas and his mostly female cities? The very same we make when we enter someone’s apartment for the first time and analyze their walls and shelves for information.

Profoundly imaginative, Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities is an intimate journey through the alleys of human rationality and emotion.


Théâtre de la Pire Espèce’s Cities ran May 4 – 7 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

For more information about the show, visit: http://www.theatrejunction.com/portfolio/cities-2/

Tannahill’s Concord Floral Flourishes at Theatre Junction

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Theatre Junction presents Jordan Tannahill’s Concord Floral, April 13 – 16 at Theatre Junction GRAND. Photo Credit: Michael Trudeau.

Everyone’s asking, what are the kids saying these days? It’s not a new question, no. Teenagers have always puzzled parents, teachers – and themselves. Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill is not only interested in what youth are saying, but what they’re doing when adults are totally absent.

Where do your children go at night?

Presented by Theatre Junction, Tannahill’s Concord Floral stages the complex lives of Calgary youth trying to outrun a plague. The supernatural terror starts when Nearly Wild (Michaela Friedland) and Rosa Mondy (Breanna Kennedy) discover classmate Bobbie James’ body (Kloee Huberdeau) at Concord Floral, an abandoned greenhouse where all the kids go to party and, in this case, smoke weed. Frightened, Rosa drops her iPhone into the body by accident, leaving it there along with the corpse. The two girls try to forget all about the body, but one night the lost phone makes a call from beyond the grave.

Tannahill’s play is not just about the ghost itself, but the haunting. What is it that haunts us today, asks Tannahill? What haunts us are tragic cases of bullying, the loss of innocent youth like Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd.  The plague may be metaphorical, but it’s still very real. None of the youth can sleep or function properly with the guilt of inaction and apathy weighing heavy on their conscious. Bystanders are not powerless nor are they removed from any responsibility, Tannahill argues.

Across the play’s ten chapters, there are vignettes that stage stories from the various neighborhood youth. One of the stories sees a young girl named Forever Irene (Lauren Marshall) using a showerhead for sexual pleasure, running out into her yard after her mom and brother barge in on her. She lies in the grass while her father mows the lawn, waiting to see if he will notice her or not. Another story sees Just Joey (Omar Rufti) searching for a quick hookup online, eventually meeting a classmate’s father at Concord Floral late at night. In these stories, Tannahill reflects on the need for contact and affirmation of self, noting how difficult it is for adolescents to belong when they don’t exactly know who they are. And so, exploration is necessary for confused youth to find some comfort of self, which can lead to good or bad outcomes.

In the show’s program, director Raphaele Thiriet draws attention to a frustrating paradox concerning young people. Teenagers are seldom heard despite prevalent cultural images of silenced youth. The acknowledgement of marginalization is not enough, it seems. For this production of Concord Floral, Theatre Junction has cast the members of its 2015-16 Mentorship Program to play the youth in social turmoil. The actors range between 16-21 years old, giving youth an actual presence on stage. In theatre, there are many acceptable substitutes, as the stage is a limited medium, but sometimes a subject group’s real presence is absolutely crucial as it is here with this emotional story about young people.

Speaking of authenticity, the 27-year-old playwright captures the youth voice masterfully. Tannahill’s young people are at times outspoken and brave, and other times shy and unsure of themselves. Sometimes, they don’t know what to say at all. But whatever the scenario, everything is treated as the most important thing in the world. Tannahill’s brilliantly rhythmic writing is elegant, but firm in its intentions.

Also, Tannahill has a playful sense of humour, humanizing inanimate subjects like the Greenhouse (Alyssa Latimer) or the Couch (Bandile Phiri) everyone drinks on. The effect draws us further into this world damaged from its roots, positioning the audience to see themselves as something larger than themselves. (And it’s also just really funny, too).

Under Thiriet’s sharp direction, the cast of young actors deliver earnest, understated performances. The actors are steady in their delivery and in tune with their stage partners, producing strong ensemble work. The production is rough in some areas with regards to timing and precision, likely due to the inexperience of its young actors, but the talent that shines from start to finish in this deceptively simple show make minor issues easily forgotten.

Ultimately, Tannahill’s Concord Floral is a fascinating piece of work that grants teens a platform to be heard. The presence of real youth elevates the play to a substantially emotional experience where its subject group are treated with respect and intelligence. Theatre Junction’s production of Concord Floral is one not to miss.


Theatre Junction’s Concord Floral by Jordan Tannahill runs Apil 13 – 16 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

Theatre Junction’s Concord Floral is directed by Raphaele Thiriet in collaboration with Erin Brubacher and the members of Theatre Junction’s 2015-16 season.

CAST:

Alyssa Latimer – Greenhouse
Bandile Phiri – Couch
Breanna Kennedy – Rosa Mondy
Emilee Shackleton – Fox
Eric Ollivier – John Cabot
Keith Boniol – Bobolink
Kloee Huberdeau – Bobbie James
Lauren Marshall – Forever Irene
Michaela Friedland – Nearly Wild
Omar Mufti – Just Joey

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.theatrejunction.com/portfolio/concord-floral/

 

 

Post-Show Discussion: Gravel, Vigneault on Usually Beauty Fails

Frédérick Gravel & Groupe d’Art Gravel Art Group’s Usually Beauty Fails opened April 15th at Theatre Junction. Audience members were invited to a reception following the performance. Gravel and Lucie Vigneault were present and shared some of their thoughts on both the group and the show.

In 2001, Vigneault graduated from the Université du Québec à Montréal with a degree in Contemporary Dance Performance. Since then, Vigneault has danced with numerous companies and choreographers in Montreal. In 2006, Vigneault joined Groupe d’Art Gravel Art Group, or GAG.

Directed by Gravel, another UQUAM graduate, GAG is a “moving team of artists” that includes both musicians and dancers. That is to say, Usually Beauty Fails started with a different set of artists than the one’s who appeared on stage for its most recent run. Introducing new artists to the group is important because it brings new energy to the piece, Gravel explains.

“The piece is not about I created the piece, I wrote the piece and there is truth about it. It’s more like…I led a team of artists to create something. Then, when a new artist comes…the group evolves with whoever is in,” said Gravel. “It’s not just about a new artist to get what is going on and fit in. I choose people who will fit well in this energy with [our artists]. When I find these people, these kind of artists, I know they will fit in, and we will all be inspired by them. They will be inspired by what we are doing.”

With regards to the type of work GAG produces, Vigneault says it is the company’s focus on presence that appeals to her as a dancer.

Dancer Lucie Vigneault, opening night reception for Usually Beauty Fails.

Dancer Lucie Vigneault, Usually Beauty Fails’ opening night reception.

“There is something about the way to be present on stage that is really interesting for me, because we don’t want to be too much ‘representative’ in the performance for the public, but something more directly in the action,” said Vigneault.

Vigneault describes Usually Beauty Fails as a show about relationships and how complicated they can be sometimes. “It’s not easy, these relationships…like you want to do something, but there is always something that is not working.”

For Gravel, the relationship between audience and performer is one that takes considerable navigation.

“I think we are trying to be as live as we can be,” said Gravel. “We are still here, you’re still there with us, living in the moment…I know you are thinking about what is going on. Is it worth the time I am putting in? What does that mean?”

“I’m trying to just not get the audience to be numb. To get involved. Be engaged. To see my strategies, our strategies to be seductive, but still appreciate it and be into it…maybe see what is at stake and not just …“that was the greatest show!” and then forget about it. It has to be engaging. It has to be engaging and still seductive, because it is live performance.”


Frédérick Gravel & Groupe d’art Gravel Art Gravel Group’s Usually Beauty Fails ran at Theatre Junction, April 15 – 18.

For more information about the show, visit: http://www.theatrejunction.com/1415season/ubf/

Music and dance performers on stage
David Albert-Toth

Frédérick Gravel
Charles Lavoie
Vincent Legault
Brianna Lombardo
Peter Trosztmer
Lucie Vigneault
Jamie Wright

Dancers at Creation
Kimberley De Jong

Francis Ducharme
Frédérick Gravel
Brianna Lombardo
Frédéric Tavernini
Jamie Wright