Television stars—especially of the fist-pumping and “real” housewife variety—take a lot of flak for their on-screen behaviour. Since gracing the screen, they’ve been on the receiving end of accusations of falsity for their words and actions.
But who’s to say that a large part, or maybe all of, human behaviour is not “faked,” too, and is not just an extension of our culture? Where does reality end and culture begin?
Those are one of the many mind-bending questions MAP Project deals with. A group of artists who’ve walked the halls at Concordia, MAP (that’s Mind, Action and Personality) works through different art media—most notably theatre—blurring the lines between reality and fiction to make you ponder deeper thoughts than where the lead actress on stage got her top.
Currently working on MAP Series (comprised of monthly episodes and currently in its first season—think reality TV meets real life meets the stage), the group presents a blend of images and dialogue borrowed from your favourite cultural icons—whether their skin be orange-hued or not—and their own dialogue and actions from their real life.
Since its inception in 2009, the members of MAP have met every Sunday night to have “social labs.”
“We meet at my apartment, and have cameras filming us and a camera in the bathroom, and we usually drink and eat and talk, sometimes we have activities that we want to do,” said MAP director Rio Mitchell. “David [di Giovanni, MAP’s associate director] and I sort of structure what happens into a show. We’ll ask specific questions, we’ll write them on the wall in the bathroom to be answered by the actors. One of our episodes was about competition, so we were playing lots of games with each other.”
After doing a successful run of shows—One, Two, Three and Four—MAP found a home for its Series project at MainLine, allowing for a regular audience that could follow the plot as it developed. Needless to say, their “reality TV-inspired live performance,” as di Giovanni described it, is not exactly easy to wrap one’s head around.
“We’re interested in where reality TV and live theatre intersect. If there’s such thing as reality theatre, which is can you have someone on stage playing themselves in an authentic way?” said di Giovanni. “Or does the fact that an audience is there completely change them and then they begin performing themselves, rather than being themselves?”
The performers play both themselves and their alters, which are “characters that they’ve created in conjunction with us and each other that have pop cultural influence,” explained Mitchell.
There’s Taupra Waugh-Waugh (played by Amy Kitz), a mix of everyone’s favourite daytime talk show host and car-giving double threat, Gordon Ramsay and Barbara Walters. Then there’s Jessandra Jones (played by Iris Lapid), a Real Housewife type of character, and Johnny Sharpe (played by Jake Zabusky), a Bachelor meets Rock of Love blend.
“We sort of play into streams where the alters are usually still kind of taking material from the real person’s life, but are using these famous lines and famous forms and is really heightened and exciting, there’s all sorts of stuff happening,” said Mitchell. “People get hit by a bus, people get pregnant and cheat on their husbands, there’s all sorts of crazy stuff going on.”
The way the audience experiences the show is also influenced by the presentation, which includes videos on top of the real bodies cat-fighting (and sometimes arm-wrestling) on the stage.
“We do a lot of layering of live bodies and projection on stage,” said Mitchell.
“Projection of them, and then also the projection of maybe some of the scenes in the popular culture that we’re using,” added di Giovanni. “Sometimes we’ll even have the scenes of popular culture interacting with the actors on stage and sort of talk to them as well, that’s when things get really messed up.”
With the nature of MAP’s works being influenced by the lives of the group members, it’s hard to pinpoint what lies in store for them.
However, Mitchell and di Giovanni have very clear hopes for where they want to take the project.
“All the way, man,” said Mitchell.
“[Montreal is] kind of a transient city, especially for people who are English-speaking,” added di Giovanni. “And students, too—they come here and they meet people and they go back to wherever they came from. But most of us have decided to stay in Montreal, which I think is a big step for MAP, which is that we want to ride this out as long as it can go.”
Episode five of MAP Series is being performed on Feb. 3 at 9 p.m. at MainLine Theatre. Tickets are $10. For more information, check out 5mapproject.wordpress.com.