Humans spans 15 different, varied storylines, but musical director Dumisizwe Vuyo Bhembe can sum up the latest Tableau D’HÃ´te production in 12 words: “It’s all about the human experience: the crazy, the sad, the beautiful.”
Humans is a collection of stories written by Daniel MacIvor for his 1994 one-man show House. “These were 15 short stories that he did not use inside his one-man show,” said director Liz Valdez. “He just added it at the end, and he called it Humans.”
Valdez came across Humans while studying theatre at Concordia University and immediately fell in love with MacIvor’s stories. She then turned the 15 one-page stories into an hour-and-a-half-long play. “I did this 15 years ago,” said Valdez. “In my final year I took these 15 stories, took students and created a piece.”
The stories don’t have any physical link, as they take place in cities all over Canada. Valdez, however, tied the stories together around the human spirit. “All the characters and all the stories start off in one place, hit something, do something that changes them forever,” she said. “Then we leave them in that suspension of “What happens next?'” The play only shows a glimpse of those people’s lives. “It’s about letting your mind continue the story,” explained Bhembe.
Ever since Valdez’s first experience with Humans, the desire to have the chance to work on it one more time has stayed with her. “I have been mentioning it over and over again,” she said. “How I would love to do Humans now that I have more experience and now that I am older and understand the stories even more.”
The stories were confined to Valdez’s head for years until Tableau d’HÃ´te gave the director a chance to set them free. “Tableau d’HÃ´te, whom I have a long relationship with, finally decided to approach me,” she said. “[They said] “Well, that show that you’ve been talking about so much, how would you feel about putting it on?'” said Valdez.
The Concordia alumna was thrilled. It was everything she had wished for since she first presented Humans. She would finally get a budget, have time to put on the play and would be able to work with seasoned actors. However, things did not go according to her plans. “Because of the arts not being funded as much as we would like, we have had to do it in one month,” she said.
That left Valdez and her team a very short time to put on a show that includes costumes, live music, projections and choreography. “It’s been quite a journey,” she said, “but quite stimulating.”
Despite all the difficulties, Valdez’s team did manage to successfully pull through. “It is impossible to have had the process we have had without the team we ended up with,” said Valdez.
According to Valdez, the choreography by VÃ©ronique Gaudreau is probably the biggest challenge for the actors. “Their bodies are taking a beating, they are not dancers,” she shared. The dance becomes part of the characters. “[We are] trying to find the visceral movement of the character, basically the emotion, the gut of what they were going through,” said Valdez of the choreography.
The team has tried to create the same effect with the music. During rehearsals, Bhembe is there to perform live music and make the actors react to what he is playing. The music is not simply in the background anymore; the actors and audience experience it fully. “You know music, it hits you viscerally,” said Valdez. “[It] is what I want these stories to do.”
Humans will be presented Feb. 5-13. at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts. For more information, check out tableaudhotetheatre.com