Two Concordia Creative Writing students have been spending the last seven months and considerable creative energy collaborating with participants from the Music and Theatre departments on an ambitious play focusing on sound and identity. Per/Son/Alia is the fruit of their labours. The Concordian sat down with dramaturges Linsday Wilson and Kirstin Gorsline to grill them on the nature of their work.
How did you get started with the play?
Lindsay: My side of things is that I’m doing a Master right now in Creative Writing and my advisor mentioned that Sandeep Bhagwati, who is the director of the show, was looking for a dramaturge. I met him and he offered me the position along with Kristin.
Kristin: I had a class with Kate Bligh last year and she met up with Sandeep and mentioned my name. The next thing I knew I got an email from him and an interview.
Were you guys given creative liberty to come up with whatever kind of story you wanted?
K: We had a lot of parameters, because the concept was that everyone who is involved in the show would be able to give a piece of their personality to the production. So the composers, the designers, the writers and the director all wrote out little pieces on how we thought about sound and identity.
L: The question was something along the lines of “If an aspect of your personality or someone that you cared about was to disappear, what would your reaction be?”
K: The other part asked “How has sound changed your life, or what sound has impacted your life the most?”
What was your biggest obstacle?
K: Time management. Trying to get in your essays for your classes. You lose a lot of your energy towards your other writing classes because it’s all going into this one piece.
What about egos. Did you have to be careful how you handled each other?
L: There are definitely, I think, in the collaborative process, power shifts. I don’t see how you can avoid it. You can’t always make everyone happy.
K: We had 11 actors, three composers, four designers, two writers and a director. That’s a group of over 20 people.
What should the audience know about experiencing Per/Son/Alia?
K: They should know that they’re not going to be sitting the whole time. We’re advising that people with mobility problems may not want to attend the show, because there is standing and walking involved in the piece. I think people should be looking forward to something that is non-conventional theatre, has non-conventional types of music in it and is something that’s really interesting and composed but not what they’re expecting. It reveals a lot about how we are as humans and all the different personalities we take on and carry through our lives.
You’re asking something of your crowd. What do you expect their reaction will be?
K: I think it’s going to be good, actually. Lindsay and I, as part of our research, went to Toronto to see a show that involved a lot of audience participation, and we realized you can set up conventions early on that make your audience feel comfortable with the idea of them not being just an audience who is solely sitting back and watching. Theatre isn’t going to the movies. You go to live theatre and you’re not seeing the same thing the person saw before you. So each night is going to be different and we want the audience to be a part of that experience. I think the vast majority of people around Concordia know that it’s not a conventional show and those are the kind of people we’re looking for. We want to make them think and hope that they enjoy it and come away with something.
What will you do during the performances?
L: We’re a free set of hands.
K: The great thing about being running crew is that there are only 200 tickets in total for the entire run, because there are only 40 people per show, and 5 shows.
What have you learned from this experience?
K: It definitely proved to me how much work goes into theatre. Often I’m at production meetings and I just get lost by how many details there are. You want to have a light on a wall, and then you find out you can’t have anything on the wall because it’ll crumble. Then you have to figure out where to put the light and how to attach it and make sure it won’t burn anyone. There are 10 million details you’d never think of. But it’s the kind of experience you don’t normally get as an undergrad, for sure. I think this definitely gives me the idea this is something I can do.
Where do you see yourselves going after this experience?
K: I have a small piece Lindsay is going to be directing later in April. I think both of us are going to do a bunch of writing; our friend has opened a theatre space with some Concordia funding.
Personalia opens March 27 and runs until April 1.Tickets are available at Oscar Peterson HalL: $2 theatre students, $5 Concordia student, $10 general. 18 years and up.