In order to meet more like minded physical theatre performers and to share what we had learned over a year of studio play, we hosted some workshops with the wider community. Through those, we met several other performers whom we invited to join our group. Adam Bradley, Dylan Juckes, Scott McCullouch, and Ted Neal joined the ensemble. Soon we were able to add the all-important music composition and performance of David Atkinson. Jordan Hall and Tommy Taylor joined the creative team as Dramaturg and Assistant Director respectively and our design team, including Kimberly Beaune (set), Lorie Brown (costume and props) and David Fox (lights), went to work. A mere four years after the initial meeting, we premiered our first show, The Belle of Winnipeg. Throughout that entire time, we only had to bring in one replacement (due to scheduling conflicts) and Ashley Botting became the final member of the ensemble.
Happily, that experiment seemed to work. We were nominated for three Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Ginette Mohr, Lorie Brown, and David Atkinson, who took home the hardware for his brilliant original sound design and composition. Our little indie show, which wasn’t really so little with a cast of nine plus a musician, had captured some hearts by capturing some of the spirit of those classic silent film comedies.
We explored some darker themes this time around, looking at the nature of evil and innocence.
“That was fun! Let’s do it again!” we thought. We wanted to bring our work to the rest of the country. If you’ve ever produced a tour (and we hadn’t), you’ll know that a show of that size is too big a risk for presenters who don’t know the company. So, in order to bring our work to a wider audience, we learned that we had to take what we had invented for Belle and adapt it to a smaller scale show. We were given an opportunity to do that when we were invited to take part in the Toronto Festival of Clowns last year.
We developed a smaller show (cast of four), keeping the heart of our style, including our Dora winning musician. Ginette Mohr directed this piece and led its development. We explored some darker themes this time around, looking at the nature of evil and innocence. What we have now is a compact version of our work that we can take on the road. With no spoken text, we can perform in any language – for this tour our “title cards” will be in both French and English.
Whether we’re influenced by clown elements, as we are in Last Man, or by historical content, as we were in Belle, what we’ve found is that our chosen idiom allows us to create work that impresses the hard core physical theatre aficionado and appeals to the lowest of low brow humorists at the same time. We’ve had older folks and children come to our shows and walk away delighted. The beauty of silent film, as people have seen with the Oscar winner The Artist, is that the performing without spoken words requires a commitment on the part of the actor that makes them more compelling and it requires a commitment on the part of the audience that makes the experience more engaging. It makes for a fuller experience.
We’ve had a great response to our shows in Toronto and Hamilton, and look forward to seeing many more happy faces as we produce our first national tour. Keystone Theatre is just beginning to bring this work to a public, which is hungry for high quality art that remains accessible to a wide audience. We think we’ve found a great formula and are keen to share it.
We’re looking forward to an exciting summer!
It will be at the Winnipeg Fringe July 19-28
It will be at the Calgary Fringe August 3-11
It will also be at the Edmonton Fringe August 16-26