For the record

The concept, when you first hear it, is a bit weird. First you interview a whole bunch of people on a topic. Then you transcribe what they said, word for word, including the ums, ahs, likes, coughs and stutters.

The concept, when you first hear it, is a bit weird.

First you interview a whole bunch of people on a topic. Then you transcribe what they said, word for word, including the ums, ahs, likes, coughs and stutters.

Then you take your stack of transcripts, pick out the juicy bits, edit them down into a script, hire some actors and put it on stage.

It’s called verbatim theatre, and Yukon’s Open Pit Theatre is giving it a try.

This weekend, Open Pit is bringing up a seasoned verbatim artist for a workshop series on how to produce and perform verbatim theatre.

The workshops are part of a bigger project, that will eventually see a new piece of theatre performed in the Yukon, about the Yukon, using the words of Yukoners.

Since the summer the Open Pit team has travelled the territory and collected more than 50 interviews from Yukoners talking on the themes of land and home.

“It’s a really special way of connecting with people, and of creating art that isn’t just based on your own belly button,” said Genevieve Doyon, one of Open Pit’s artistic directors, who is spearheading the project.

“I interview First Nations elders and I interview immigrants and newcomers and kids. Everybody kind of has their own take on it.”

Doyon plans to spend the next week or so editing those interviews down to a first draft of a script.

And she plans to do it with the help of Joel Bernbaum, who runs a theatre company in Saskatoon.

Bernbaum spent more than a year interviewing 500 people living in Victoria on the topic of homelessness. He then turned that material into a play called Home is a beautiful word.

A lot of the verbatim theatre he had seen was presented as a series of overlapping monologues. But there are ways to create dialogue between characters without betraying the spirit of verbatim, said Bernbaum.

One way is to do group interviews. You can then have actors recreate the resulting discussion on stage, word for word.

Another way is to use the gift of time to generate real dialogue between people who have never met, he said.

Using his work in Victoria as an example, Bernbaum described interviewing a 94-year-old, and asking them to ask questions as if they were talking to a homeless person.

Later, when interviewing a homeless person, you can give those questions to them verbatim.

You might say, “This question came from a 94-year-old who lives in a senior citizen’s home, they want to know, ‘Where do you go to the bathroom?’ Can you respond to me, as you would respond to that question?” said Bernbaum.

“All of a sudden, you get a totally accurate, authentic, verbatim response to a verbatim question, and you have an exchange that happens between two people that live in the same community but never have interacted, except on stage when their transcripts are combined.”

People are attracted to the authenticity of verbatim theatre, in the same way we feel more invested in a movie or book when it’s based on true events, said Bernbaum.

Part of the magic of verbatim is the way it holds onto little eccentricities of a person’s speech, he said.

Speech pathologists call those ums and ahs that break up our thoughts “speech disfluencies,” but Berbaum prefers “verbal deliciousnesses,” a term he borrowed from a verbatim playwright in Toronto.

“Those verbal deliciousnesses are the gems that enlighten us as to what a person is feeling or thinking,” he said.

“When someone laughs, pauses, stutters, stops, cuts themself off, what does it mean? And you see, when it translates to the stage, how powerful those verbal deliciousnesses are.”

A clip from a performance of Home is a beautiful word can be found on YouTube.

In addition to helping Doyon edit her script over the next week, Bernbaum will lead three public workshops in Whitehorse over the weekend on producing and performing verbatim theatre. Visit www.openp.it for more information, and to register.

RELATED:

A journalist’s first foray into creating verbatim art

“Anyone who has a tape recorder and a sense of curiosity, which is innate in most human beings, can be a verbatim theatre artist,” says Joel Bernbaum, a journalist and theatre producer who will be teaching Yukoners how to make verbatim art at a series of workshops this weekend.

I, as a journalist, have a great deal of experience interviewing people, transcribing those interviews, and editing that material down into something meaningful.

I think to myself, “Why not give it a try? How hard could it be?”

So I challenged myself to write a short, verbatim poem, using only a 10-minute interview with Open Pit’s Genevieve Doyon.

Here are two things I learned:

* Transcribing for the purpose of creating verbatim art is very different from transcribing for journalism. It takes a lot of time and concentration to record all of those false starts, stutters, likes, ums and ahs that I would normally edit out in a way that feels authentic to what was actually said.

* Good, clean quotes make terrible poetry. Messy quotes make good poetry… Or passable poetry… Or bad poetry… I’ll let you be the judge.

Here’s what I came up with: A verbatim poem, comprised only of words from an interview about verbatim art.

Hard to say

by Jacqueline Ronson, with words from Genevieve Doyon

So it’ll be, you know, it’ll be, I, it’s… It’s not documentary, you know?

So it’s really – You know, some people call it journalism theatre.

I don’t like to call it that.

But I’m not creating someone who doesn’t exist, you know, that kind of beats the, w- what I, what, what, I…

So, for example, if I interview you and you speak about, uh, peaches, and then I interview someone called Josh who speaks about peaches, I’m not gonna like meld your w- your words together and create this character that doesn’t exist.

So, yeah. It’s hard to s- y’know. It’s hard to- y’know, it’s very different.

So, it’s, it’s, those technicalities that I yet have to … discover, but um, I have been looking at the transcripts a lot.

Yeah.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

Most Read