Innovation & experimentation in theatre at StageLab 2016

White Bread written/performed by Mia van Leeuwen. Photo credit: Rea Mucović

White Bread written/performed by Mia van Leeuwen. Photo credit: Rea Mucović

Every two years, something special happens at the University of Alberta’s Drama Department: StageLab Theatre Festival, where the drama department’s faculty put their theatre research on stage – this year in 6 diverse pieces, performed August 25 – 28 at the Timms Centre for the Arts.

Amanda Bergen, StageLab Theatre Festival’s producer explains, “Most theatre-goers see finished work at Fringe or other theatres that are putting up seasons in Edmonton, but at StageLab you get to see part of the experimentation… In some people’s research, it very much is a practical hands-on, on your feet kind of research. Research in the traditional sense of reading books and articles and gathering scholarly information may not be the same process that some artists might take.”

“For example, [in Versing] Lin Snelling is doing research on how she interacts with the musicians, the space and the audience, so it’s research on the impulse and response element of creation. That can be really key in connecting with your audiences, like literally speaking to them like in Mia van Leeuwen’s play White Bread where the audience becomes part of her world – that’s a different way of connecting to the audience and researching that is pretty important if you’re going to be doing a one-woman show, to see how audiences respond, how you need to be with them, that kind of thing.”

Being a festival about innovation in the theatre, the StageLab programming broadens the definition of theatre, including devised theatre, work in found space, improvisation, dance, and Jeff Osterlin & Matthew Skopyk’s Summation of Parts, which focuses on sound, light and projection instead of the performer. Amanda says, “[There’s] only light and sound on the mainstage of the Timms, so it’s completely different but absolutely theatrical. To curate something like that would defeat that purpose of bringing their individual research to life, so it’s a wide range of theatre. You won’t see a common theme or structure.”

As part of the research process, talkbacks will be held after every performance, allowing audiences the chance to ask the artists about the work they just saw or provide feedback on moments that did or didn’t work for them. Amanda encourages audiences to get involved with the performances through the talkbacks, “Each show has invited audiences to stay for the talkback after the performance to ask questions if you’re a curious artist or theatre-goer – why did you decide on this space, why musicians instead of recorded sound or whatever you’re thinking after the show. You get to give feedback to them – this moment worked for me, or this moment confused me. That’s really valuable to the artists and you never know where that comment might take that creator.”

The Timms Theatre Innovation Fund’s support of StageLab means all festival performances are free. The festival team has also scheduled the performances so that it’s convenient for the audience to stick around in the Timms Centre for the Arts and see multiple shows each day.

The performances in this year’s StageLab (as described in the StageLab press release) are as follows. Check out the University of Alberta’s StageLab page for the festival schedule.

Hermenegild: A Jesuit Tragedy
Dramaturgy and translation by Stefano Muneroni, written by Sforza Pallavicino S.J.
Sacrifice, Death, Desire! This staged reading of Hermenegild: A Jesuit Tragedy probes Christian martyrdom in its liturgical, performative and erotic expressions. Can suffering be pleasurable? Come find out.

Summation of Parts
Created by Jeff Osterlin & Matthew Skopyk
The development of universe-scale computers called Multivacs and their relationships with humanity through the courses of seven historic settings, beginning in 2061. In each of the first six scenes, a different character presents the computer with the same question; namely, how the threat to human existence posed by the threat of death of the universe can be averted. The purpose of this experiment is to attempt to connect the sound, light and projections up to trigger each other under different variables and timing.

Trajet Dit
Written, directed and translated by Donia Mounsef
The father, the child, the killer and a brick wall. A play exploring the tragic from multiple perspectives. Inside the stone, there is always someone who wants to speak to you.

Versing
Choreographed and performed by Lin Snelling.
A guitar, piano, double bass, some lights, performers and writing; a day of the week, a time, a desire to dance, and play music, speak, listen, exchange, follow, ignore, and interrupt lines of thought; move and say/see several things at once. A live conversation/performances/contradiction in the Paint Room at the Timms; Versing is theatre, dance, light, and music: an experiment addressing both performer and audience. Come figure it out with us.

The Well of Beautiful Dances
Created by Nadien Chu and Kathleen Weiss
A grave. A well. A gate. A maiden. A mother. A crone. Sophie’s journey from the depth of personal descent to a new sense of life. A movement and image based theatre piece exploring the finding of the lost self.

White Bread
Created & performed by Mia van Leeuwen
Tiny white pills. An island surrounded by sharks. A maid named Abbie Coxin. White Bread is a performance collage that explores celebrity, addiction, and the social history of white bread; a biting satire on the decay of the American Dream, reflected in the ageing and waning star power of pop-icon Madonna.

StageLab Theatre Festival takes place at the Timms Centre for the Arts August 25 – 28. Tickets are free, but guarantee your spot at each performance by calling 780.492.2495 or emailing 2016stagelab@gmail.com.

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