Bright Lights Cold Water a retrospective portrait of relationships

Bright Lights Cold Water. Photo credit Marc J Chalifoux

Bright Lights Cold Water. Photo credit Marc J Chalifoux

It’s been anything but a slow summer for Toy Guns Dance Theatre, having spent a good part of the summer touring shows across Alberta and Canada. They’ve taken ‘the pillow show’ – Propylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, Retinol Palmitate and Other Words I Don’t Understand Like Love – through Mattress Mattress stores throughout Alberta. They’ve performed as part of Art After Dark and they’ve previewed a new show, Who Am I? Unauthorized Stories from the Varscona Parkade, at the Feats Festival of Dance.

Next up on their list is bringing Bring Lights, Cold Water (Watching Netflix at 3am Questioning your Mortality) back to Edmonton after its tour through St. Paul, Alberta and the Guelf Contemporary Dance Festival, where Toy Guns Dance Theatre was the first dance group from Edmonton to have ever performed in the festival. Bright Lights, Cold Water shows in Light Horse Park (8511 – 104 street) July 24/25 and July 31/August1.

Artistic Director Jake Hastey says Bright Lights, Cold Water, “grew out of the idea, the unfortunately biographic experience, of laying in bed next to someone you’re in a relationship with when you start to question whether its the right place for you and you question yourself and you question them and at some point you look back over how you ended up in the place that you are.” The show is a bit surreal, jumping through memories of relationships, says, Jake, “It has different vignettes from different series – those moments in a relationship that are so pinnacle and stick with you. The good moments and the bad.”

Bright Lights, Cold Water is performed in a park and allows the audience to participate in the show, interacting directly with the performers by shooting water guns and shining flashlights at the performers. The show starts at dusk and as the sun goes down and the park becomes darker, the audience is able to illuminate different moments of the performance however they choose with their flashlights. Jake says that this interaction with the audience is very powerful and changes each show from night to night. “… to have a show where people could illuminate different scenes with flashlights and isolate moments on stage is so interesting because it became very much like a memory, like when you’re looking back and you’re seeing one scene so vivid and then it jumps to something else, and you see it, but it’s clouded, but you can see that moment in time.”

Bright Lights Cold Water. Photo credit Marc J Chalifoux

Bright Lights Cold Water. Photo credit Marc J Chalifoux

The audience can also arm themselves with water guns to help create a rain effect as part of the show – another element that Jake says resonates differently for different audience members. ” [Last year] my sister’s fiance came and the first time – he’d heard about the water guns and he’s this really fun dude – he’s pumped and he’s right in the front row waiting and then shooting the dancers. But then he came back and saw the show again and sat back in a lawn chair 20 feet back and he had such an emotional reaction to watching the people in front abuse these people who already in a down situation and it was so interesting. We’ve all been in a breakup where we’ve said or done something hurtful to someone else because we were so upset, so it’s the idea of being able to witness that and to create an experience for the people in the front that is unique to the people who are viewing it.”

For those that caught Bright Lights, Cold Water last year, Jake says that the show has transformed since then by virtue of the cast members that are now performing it. “The shows are tied to whoever is in them, it’s a very personal kind of work that we do. It’s definitely transformed – so much of it has been informed by the people who are doing it. Much of the structure is the same, but each of the roles, even the different relationships within those roles, has changed. We’ve gone through casting changes in the past couple weeks where relationships just change depending on the age and… sexuality, lots of times in our shows the gender of the people in couples will change. So, you’ll go from having a heterosexual relationship to a gay or lesbian relationship. Really for us it’s about energy and honesty, so that kind of transforms in a certain way and every now and then you have a moment when you’re outside of it and you’re looking in and you’re going, ‘Oh, that’s a really interesting dynamic they’ve created.” Because it was played by two women and now it’s played by two men. Or it used to be played by two men and it’s now different. In that way, a lot has changed.”

Bright Lights, Cold Water plays at Light Horse Park (8511 104 street) July 24/25 and July 31/August 1 at 9:30 p.m. Admission is by donation (cash at the park, or online) and water guns and flashlights will be for sale for $5 – $10 at the show.

Up next for Toy Guns is performing Who Am I? Unauthorized Stories from the Varscona Parkade at the top of the Varscona parkade during Fringe Festival, August 13 – 23.

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