W & M Physical Theatre’s Waiting Rooms in Heaven Reflects On The Life (Not) Lived

W & M Physical Theatre's Waiting Rooms in Heaven. Pictured: Laura Henley and Wojciech Mochniej. Photo Credit:

W & M Physical Theatre’s Waiting Rooms in Heaven. Pictured (left to right): Valerie Campbell, Laura Henley and Wojciech Mochniej. Photo Credit: Aldona B Photography

Presented at the University Theatre, W & M Physical Theatre’s preview of its latest work in development Waiting Rooms in Heaven summons poignant reflections on life and the life (not) lived.

The piece takes place inside a room decorated with pristine white chairs. The only exit is a door atop some stairs, but out this door are a flock of birds that obscure the sky. This place is nowhere exact or well-defined. It is a metaphysical space whereupon eight unfortunate individuals enter into without any answers nor any clarity. Regrets from the past soon reemerge and make heavy the souls of those trapped in this mysterious unknown.

There is woven into this piece this desire that life choices were not so permanent. It is an idea that repeats itself as a wish that life were written in pencil than in pen, that one could go back and do things differently. It is an idea, however, that removes the opportunity to not only learn, but to also experience life in the moment. After all, what is a life stripped of its spontaneity? What is a life interrupted by fear and anxiety?

Driving this idea of doing one’s life over again are the “what ifs” the adult characters of this piece find themselves trapped within. Repeated again and again are what the characters wish they could have done differently if only ‘this’ or ‘that’. It is fitting then that the there is an almost violent sense of control in the movement. As if trying to change the outcomes of some past scenarios, the dancers attempt to manipulate and bend to their will the other. Their efforts are in vain just as wondering “what if?” is a futile attempt at changing the past. Where they manage to exert any sort of “real” control is in throwing the rows of chairs into one large pile. Of course, what meaningful impact does such a destructive action have in the grand scheme of things?

The company has incorporated in this piece four actors who range from 10 to 60 years old. It makes sense that the two adult characters would carry some baggage as they certainly have had the years to accumulate such burdens, but what about the little girl and teenager trapped in this room with the others? How do they, who appear to be brother and sister, fit in this place? Perhaps their baggage is of the second-hand kind, the kind handed down through the generations. If this is the case, then perhaps their wish is not to have lived life differently, but to have been born into a whole different life altogether.

The piece ends on a hopeful tone when the door is opened once again and, this time, soaring birds greet the characters. It is an invitation to let go and move on, to fly away and live a life unrestrained.

Here, the company’s latest work explores the idea that the gravity of our burdens are only as great as we allow them to be. While the current circumstances of our lives may be cemented as a result of choices made, the life not yet lived remains to be written. And this life that waits for us relies upon on the right state of mind which, in the end, makes all the difference.

With this only being stage one of development, it will be interesting to see how the piece evolves and what it will ultimately resemble when W & M Physical Theatre brings Waiting Rooms in Heaven to Calgary again in 2016.


W & M Physical Theatre’s Waiting Rooms in Heaven ran at the University of Calgary’s University Theatre Jan 22 – 24, 2014. The piece was presented as part of U of C’s School of Creative and Performing Arts’ Dance Pro Series.

Choreographed by: Wojciech Mochniej with Melissa Monteros
Performers: Wojciech Mochniej, Laura Henley, Rufi O. Rodriguez, and Serenella Sol
Guest Performers: Valerie Campbell, Valerie Pearson, Griffin Cork, Ruby June Bishop, and Kent Brockman (bass)

For more information about the show, visit: 
http://wmdance.com/
http://scpa.ucalgary.ca/events/pro-series

 

 

20 Years Later, W & M Physical Theatre Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

W & M Physical Theatre's newest work, Waiting Rooms in Heaven. Photo Credit: Aldona B Photography

W & M Physical Theatre’s newest work Waiting Rooms in Heaven. Photo Credit: Aldona B Photography

This week, W & M Physical Theatre previews Waiting Rooms in Heaven, their newest dance work, at the University of Calgary. The presentation coincides with the company’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

Founded in 1994, W & M Physical Theatre’s story begins in Poland where Melissa Monteros and Wojciech Mochniej, the company’s founders, met at Silesian Dance Theatre.

“They were just starting the very first professional contemporary dance company [Silesian Dance Theatre] in Poland. The wall had just come down. This was 1991,” Monteros recalls. “[Wojciech and I] made our first work together in 1993. We launched our company at the end of ‘94.”

The company left Poland in 2000 after financial struggles made it clear that a move was necessary, Monteros shares.

“We started the company in Gdansk. We were there for a long time, six or seven years before we felt that funding was never going to happen. I had a house. I sold my house. I put half of my salary into the bank so I could pay the Polish dancers. It was a big struggle…Wojciech and I finally decided that it was too big a struggle. We also wanted to be working in one place because we would be going back and forth between Poland and Canada. It was expensive and difficult.”

20 years later, Monteros and Mochniej’s commitment to the company has not wavered.

Balancing responsibilities at U of C, where Monteros and Mochniej both teach, with a professional commitment to making art with the company is a matter of making time, says Monteros.

“I think we are relentless. Some people criticize us for it, some people shake their heads. Other people maybe admire us for it…there is a big part of the university job that is committed to research, so that’s a huge support, but it’s true that there isn’t the time. You have to make it happen.”

And with that time, W & M Physical Theatre has been busy developing Waiting Rooms in Heaven which Monteros says has been a great opportunity to revisit themes and questions from old works.

Waiting Rooms in Heaven sets out to explore how we experience life, that is if we are truly living rather than waiting for life to happen.

“Really, the piece overall is not about leaving life. It’s about, are we really experiencing life? Maybe, is this heaven? If it is, why are we sitting in the waiting room and not doing anything about it?”

And though she likes to ask big questions in her work, Monteros says that she “would never try to find the answers for somebody,” preferring instead that the audience discover the answers for themselves.

After its preview in Calgary, the company will tour their new work across Poland for a month in the spring. There, as they have done here with this production, the company will integrate local actors into the performance in what Monteros says will be a “very short, intense rehearsal process.”

The piece will then return to Calgary in 2016 as a fully-developed work.

With a rich history behind it, W & M Physical Theatre has plenty to celebrate on its 20th anniversary as it moves forward into the future with new, exciting works.


U of C’s School of Creative and Performing Arts’ Dance Pro Series presents W & M Physical Theatre’s preview of Waiting Rooms in Heaven Jan 22 – Jan 24, 2015 at the University Theatre.

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://scpa.ucalgary.ca/events/pro-series

For more information on W & M Physical Theatre, visit: http://wmdance.com