StageLab Brings Innovative Theatre to the Stage

Research and performance. Not two things you’d think of as belonging together, but that’s exactly why we should all go to StageLab Theatre Festival – a new festival showcasing the works of the faculty and staff of the UofA’s Department of Drama . The festival runs August 27 – 31 so, think of it as delaying your Fringe Festival hangover.

This is the second year StageLab – which is organized by the University of Alberta’s Drama Department – has brought its “collection of new wave performance including multimedia experiments, adaptations of pivotal cultural and societal works, improvised dance and music, sound art installations and more” to the Timms Centre for the Arts, this time for free!

What does that actually mean? It means that even if you Fringed for all 10 days, there’s still some really neat performances left to see – performances which will undoubtedly influence future theatre in Edmonton.

I sat down with Priscilla Yakielashek, Festival Producer, to find out more about what to expect from the festival. If you went last year, expect several changes this year. Priscilla says, “last year was much more straight-forward theatre. This year, there’s a lot more happening. There’s dance, there’s crazy sound things. Strangely, almost every project is using sound or music in a really neat or specific way. I don’t think that was intentional, but as each project developed, they all incorporated music in a different way.”

Organized by the University of Alberta’s Department of Drama, the festival is obviously focused on the university crowd. However, Priscilla says the festival is meant to showcase the talented faculty and staff employed by the Department of Drama, not just to drama majors, but to other faculties and, of course, the rest of Edmonton’s theatre community. Personally, I also see StageLab as having the potential to open up the creative process behind innovations in theatre to the public – to take what’s going on in the heads of theatre professors and professionals and celebrate innovative works. I ask Priscilla if she agrees. “I hope we’re opening up the conversation about how theatre begins and how it develops. When you come to StageLab, it’s not just about a product. The conversation is about the steps that led to this project and the steps that will follow.”

In a city chock-full of festivals in the summer, it’s hard to add another festival to the line-up. Priscilla also produced the festival last year – I asked her what attracted her to StageLab and kept her coming back. “It’s interesting to be involved at the start of a new festival. First of all, it’s really tricky to figure out when to introduce a new festival in summer in Edmonton, when there’s a festival every week… We knew it would be difficult to build a new festival, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a good challenge to figure out how to build upon it and how to make people aware of it each year. So, last year we had it in June, which is probably the deadest month of the year [in the theatre scene]. It’s after the regular season is over, it’s before the Fringe, it’s in the space where people have had enough of theatre. And it was a full three weeks of events. We charged ticket prices last year. Already those were three things we knew we were going to change. coming right off of Fringe has it’s own difficulties, but already it feels so much better – having it for 5 days, not charging tickets – it’s better… There’s room to add other events into it – maybe more workshops, or talk-backs, or panel discussions. This year it’s seven solid performances. But there are all these other avenues that, as the festival grows, there’s room to incorporate.”

StageLab obviously has a lot of potential – Priscilla hopes the festival will encourage exploration and involvement in the arts from many other faculties, “it would be amazing if you had people from Medicine or Anthropology to create a theatre piece.” Here’s hoping this will happen next year!

From African music, to Japanese stories, to a performance in a closet – StageLab has something for everyone. If I had to pick just two to see – hands-down I would say Delete (which features Matthew Skopyk as the Composer/Sound Designer) and The Absent One (a translation and adaptation of a Mexican play).

The performances are:

Delete – August 27, 7:00 pm

Sleeping Giant: A Dramatic Monologue – August 28 and 30 at 7:00. August 31 at 4:30.

Story House – August 29 and 31 at 7:00. August 30 at 4:30

Transition – August 30 and 31 at 6:30

The Voice in the Closet -August 27 and 29 at 4:30. August 28 and 31 at 7:00.

ReDirect – August 29 at 7:00. August 30 and 31 at 4:30.

The Absent One – August 28 and 29 at 4:30. August 30 at 7:00.

Or, see the festival’s full schedule on the Department of Drama’s website. All performances are free to attend.

– Jenna Marynowski

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