Nakai’s artistic director Jacob Zimmer says Landline will encourage participants to take a deeper look at their surroundings. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Landline offers Whitehorse residents a chance to text someone in Saint John

‘It encourages you to take some abnormal walks maybe’

The latest show hosted by Whitehorse’s Nakai Theatre will connect strangers nearly 6,500 kilometres apart.

Landline is part walking tour and part text message chat. Armed with an iPod and a cellphone, participants in Whitehorse will be paired with a stranger in Saint John, New Brunswick, listening to the same track.

Using prompts from audio, strangers on the opposite ends of the country can start a conversation while walking through their respective cities.

“It encourages you to take some abnormal walks maybe, or make some different choices than you might normally,” said Nakai’s artistic director Jacob Zimmer. “Even in a place with as much beauty and landscape as Whitehorse we can take some things for granted.”

Participants might be encouraged to go somewhere that reminds them of a friend or simply take a closer look at the place where they’re standing. The text conversation evolves from there.

“The guided audio is encouraging (listeners) to be mindful and thoughtful about where we are in space and to think about all the memories and connections between where we live and also our friendships and relationships,” Zimmer said.

At the end of the about 40-minute walk partners see each other for the first time via a Skype call.

Landline has toured all over the world. It was in Whitehorse in 2016 for the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. During that visit Yukoners chatted with strangers in Ottawa. The show sold out.

Co-creators Dustin Harvey and Adrienne Wong first put on Landline in 2014.

Harvey said the show is designed to give participants as much autonomy as possible.

“The piece isn’t trying to make you think or feel specific things.”

Partners can choose how much information they want to share, he said. They might choose to create personas and not use their real name.

It’s more about the connection that is created, even if it’s only for a short time, he said.

“How profoundly an audience member experiences that or not is kind of up to them. But certainly for me the image that we’re trying to make is an image of togetherness, a shared space.”

Harvey said he wants participants to be surprised by what they experience in that short time talking with a stranger “in a way that makes them curious about the other city and the other place.”

“Ideally they form this temporary relationship and at the end they get to say hello to that person,” he said.

After years of putting on Landline, Harvey has seen those connections between strangers sometimes continue after the event is over.

Sometimes they’ll exchange personal information so that they can stay in touch, he said.

“One time we did a piece between Cardiff and Halifax and we thought we were basically in the business of making Facebook friends because so many people friended each other.”

Zimmer is still getting to know Whitehorse himself. He started working for Nakai this summer. Before coming north he spent 14 years running his own theatre and dance company in Toronto.

“I’m new here, so (Landline) was a great opportunity to meet some people and have some interactions with Nakai’s audience and the audience for interesting things in Whitehorse.”

He said he moved north to get more proximity to the woods “and to a community that was smaller and where a theatre company had a more direct relationship with an audience and with a city and a community.”

Landline is running in Whitehorse from Sept. 15 to 17.

Shows happen Friday from 3 to 4 p.m, Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 1 p.m.

Participants depart every 10 minutes from the lobby of the White Pass building. If possible they should bring their own phone, though Zimmer said there will be a few to borrow.

The show is free with advanced registration. For more information and to register visit nakaitheatre.com.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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