Punctuate! Theatre starts their second season with a challenge: telling a story without the use of dialogue or music. Liz Hobbs, Punctuate! Theatre’s Artistic Director and actor, director, and co-creator of The Silence Project, says, “We had the idea to do a show in silence about a year ago – just trying to create something that was accessible and trying to find a new way to communicate on stage, and whether or not that’s possible by taking away the vocal language of speaking and the emotional language of music. I’ve seen a million shows that are silent but with music in it, but I’ve never seen a show with no music and no words. We’re trying to push ourselves as creators and we’re going to see if it works. We’re going to try to see if it’s accessible to the hearing impaired community, to someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language, to someone who doesn’t get the cultural relevance of the music – that kind of idea. Just trying to explore whether we’re able to communicate by connecting with each other as opposed to telling each other what we’re doing.”
The Silence Project revolves around one girl’s personal journey as she moves through a surreal dreamscape. As Liz says, “It’s a surreal exploration of connection and disconnection… [the character] encounters expressionistic characters that are all representations of certain aspects of herself, but it takes her a while of journeying through the world before she understands that and starts accepting all these characters as part of herself. Only when she’s able to identify with the characters and accept who they are and who she is can she complete her journey of self-realization and come back to our world.”
While the story The Silence Project tells is certainly intriguing, I am most interested in seeing how the story is told in addition to what the story is. So many plays rely on rich, often quick-paced, witty, and wordy dialogue to get their point across, and movement is often used as a more subtle part of the performance. Even in most rehearsal processes, the primary emphasis is on getting a grasp of the dialogue, and then getting up and moving. With The Silence Project, Punctuate! Theatre is flipping this convention on its head, and hopefully enabling audiences who may have a harder time enjoying more traditional theatre performances to fully attend.
The Silence Project was co-created by five of Punctuate! Theatre’s founding members, who also pull double duty as the show’s actors. If you’ve ever tried to co-create anything, you’ll know that it’s not always easy, but for Punctuate! Theatre, creating The Silence Project together allowed them to get in touch with each other’s creative processes and grow as a company. Liz says, “We spent a month and a half – not trying to make a story – but bringing in images that resonated with us and doing movement work and creative work and creating images and exploring the emotions behind visual things and just generating material. From there we sat down and started carving that into some sort of story line that has a beginning, middle, and end, as a group.” Sheiny Satanove, Punctuate! Theatre’s Artistic Producer and co-creator and actor in The Silence Project, adds, “we did a lot of ‘image banking’. Since there was no text and no words, [we had to figure out] where we draw inspiration from. So we all brought in images of silent things that inspired us and we explored within that.”
The Silence Project runs January 8 – 13 at the TACOS Space (10005 80 Avenue). Performances are every evening at 7:30 pm and a Sunday matinee at 2:00 pm. Admission to the opening night performance is by donation. Tickets are $15 – $20 and can be bought from Tix on the Square. Punctuate! Theatre also has a season subscription where subscribers can see all four of this season’s shows for $60.
PS – check out the What it Is Podcast’s latest episode, Episode 34: New Year, New You, which has an extended interview with Elliot James, Andréa Jorawsky, and Sheiny Satanove about The Silence Project.
– Jenna Marynowski