Made it out to a couple of shows this week, but only one is getting the post-y treatment, after much deliberation/more laziness. But to be fair, one was still in super-secret ‘workshop’ format, and just getting the invite to the event was delight enough. I’ll keep mum about what it was, and if you weren’t there, you should probably be thinking about what it is you did wrong.
The show I WILL talk about, tho, was just last night at my alma mater, the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama. One I’d been much anticipating, as it was the latest pubic performance from Sanitas Playback Theatre, headed by my current teacher Brie Barker. The show was titled, simply enough, STORIES OF LOVE and would be my first encounter with the form known as Playback Theatre, if not with love stories themselves.
So after milling in the familiar lobby, meeting up with the ubiquitous Tim Oberholzer and classmate Rachel, we headed on in to find out, at least myself, what was about to happen. Brie had talked up his company on a previous occasion, so I wasn’t totally flying blind, but close enough. Which is, by the way, a fine way to experience ANY piece of theatre, and I highly recommend it.
Brie was the conductor’ for the evening, which we’ll get to in a moment. Paul Gareau was providing the music, and a trio of actors readied themselves for the (re-)telling of stories: Jen Vallance, Lucy Lu, and Mike Kosowan. I’d seen Mike before in RED NOSES and a couple of Improv shows, and actually recently had the pleasure of meeting Jen V. at my callback audition for COMPLEX NUMBERS, which was very cool. After everyone introduced themselves on stage, Brie took over with his conducting duties…which, for the first half or so of the show, consisted of getting snippets of stories out of the audience concerning their experiences with love of all stripes. When he did, the actors would then bring it to life in one shape or another, with some of the most beautiful and unaffected improv I’ve ever seen. Some were simple, some were funny, others wrenching, but everything had a very sweet, honest feeling to it. I was impressed.
The second half consisted of Brie coaxing a volunteer from the audience to sit with him and tell a fuller story of love, good or bad, which the team would then act out in long form. The teller of the story would get to cast his/her tale, and name it if they so chose. And this is where I went from being impressed to being damn well blown away. The stories that came out were SO personal, so affecting, so moving, that the sheer responsibility of Playback really started to hit home. I mean, it’s one thing to perform for a happy crowd looking for a good night out. It’s another entirely to do it for a man who is literally waiting for you to give him a reason to go on living tomorrow morning. That’s surely about as dangerous as theatre gets, and certainly as heartwrenching. The performers were all absolutely committed and fearless on stage, and Paul’s music was the perfect accompaniment.
So I can see that Playback is not your everyday, average theatre, and that’s a good thing. I’ll be back, and maybe I’ll even take a stab at telling a story of my own (probably not, really, but still…). Thanks to the Sanitas gang for a great job. Peace, soul, and a little extra love this time out,
The Visitor (and Winston)