24 Hours Inspire 365 days of Hope

There are times when I get the opportunity to attend theatre that gives me such pride in the theatre community that I belong to, and such hope for a future fraught with possibility. The 24 Hour Theatre Performance that I attended at the Bus Stop theatre while I was in Halifax was one such experience.
It is the fourth annual 24 hour theatre extravaganza produced by Nova Scotian performer (and jack-of-all-trades) Rhys Bevan-John as a fundraiser for the Bus Stop theatre, a venue that promotes, fosters and facilitates the creation of new works by local theatre artists and lends unfaltering support to the development of exciting, dynamic, indigenous projects.
The 24 Hour Theatre project seeks to create and stage three brand new Canadian plays in just 24 hours. Three playwrights have twelve hours to write three original scripts and a team of actors and directors has just under 12 hours to put the plays on their feet and give them depth and shape before the audience arrives at 8pm. These plays, like Improv, have immediate and instant appeal because they disappear forever once the last line has been uttered. This gives the entire event a sense of magic and novelty and a fresh energy that isn’t often found in the commercial theatre.
The first show that was performed was Mourning Bird written by Michael McPhee (directed by Rhys Bevan-John), a piece that was perfectly suited to his cast: John Han, Keelin Jack, Lesley Smith and Gina Thornhill. McPhee’s characters were strong and rose beyond clichés to create a portrait of infidelity which shifted smoothly and often between pathos and humor. I felt as though I was familiar with this situation, but not this particular story- nor these particular people. Jack gave an especially poignant and dramatic performance, and Smith used perfectly matched subtlety and grace to create a particularly interesting character.
The second show was called Instrumental Windows and it was beautifully written by Evan Brown. The words of this play read like poetry, and I wished that I could have captured it- caught it- written it all down so that I could pour over it, like one may pour over a poem by t.s. eliot or novels by Flan O’Brien or James Joyce- deducing, and searching for connections and entirely subjective “meaning”. Director Jennette White added an additional layer of significance in choosing to use physical theatre to illuminate Brown’s words. The four bodies onstage, Angela Gasparetto, Meghan Hubley, Andrea Lee Norwood and Andria Wilson were continually beautiful, at times hypnotizing and worked as a company as though they had been together for years. After the last line, “We are but shadows and each of you has one,” I wished I could rewind it all and watch it unfold again. Like a good poem- at first read we are swathed in beauty- the sense of the thing comes later.
It was the third show, however, that secured my faith in the future of Nova Scotian theatre. It was called Our Intentions and it was written by the extremely talented Andrew Bush, one of the founding members of the unequivocally successful sketch comedy troupe Picnicface (http://www.picnicface.com/). It was directed by Howard Beye, and played with the conventions of the 24-hour theatre framework in a manner similar to Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, with far more success. The play was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, imaginative, clever (it included scripted improv!), and original, with great witty dialogue and a poignant message about the fate of hastily written characters who are hardly given the chance to live before they are inevitably lost to time and past. I hope to see full-length plays written by Andrew Bush being produced in Halifax in the very near future. The performers in this production were Jasmine Beye, Mary Fay Coady (whose energy is electric), Allison MacDougall and Nathan Pilon. MacDougall gave an especially hysterical performance as the character idealistically waiting for an important play that doesn’t begin until after it ends.
I am continually inspired as I see the theatre community in Halifax that I love so dearly banding together to support one another and to strive to create new Nova Scotian work. We are indeed fortunate to have such talented artists in our city, and it is my sincerest hope and wish that 2009 will be conducive to each of their dreams coming true.

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