Tackling non traditional theatre in the territory

Jessica Hickman was sick of standard theatre. So the local dancer teamed up with Whitehorse theatre junkie Sam B. Good and started writing grant proposals. Six months later, with $39,000 in arts funding, the pair held auditions.

Jessica Hickman was sick of standard theatre.

So the local dancer teamed up with Whitehorse theatre junkie Sam B. Good and started writing grant proposals.

Six months later, with $39,000 in arts funding, the pair held auditions.

But they didn’t have a play in mind.

In fact, they didn’t even have a script.

“We weren’t just looking for actors,” said Hickman. “We also wanted writers and musicians, because we were creating everything from scratch.”

Twenty-five people applied for the four positions, which pay equity wages of $540 a week.

“We had everyone audition in groups and played physical games,” said Hickman.

“We wanted to see which people were willing and interested and comfortable rolling around on the floor.”

For the last six weeks, the group of six has been working through a very foreign process, creating something from nothing.

They’ve called the project Open Pit, because they’re “mining theatrical depths out in the open,” according to their website.

But they’re mining their internal depths, as well.

“We are finding a method of working together and expressing our own opinions and ideas, while still respecting others,” said Open Pit member Genevieve Doyon.

Some of this includes what they call “a Sharing.”

This involves all members getting from six to 60 minutes to speak their mind without interruption.

The catch is, even if you’ve said your piece, you’re not done until the clock runs out.

So if you’ve got 60 minutes and only need five, “everyone must use the entirety of the time on the clock, even if it is just to sit and breathe,” according to group member Adele Gigantes, who posted about it on Open Pit’s blog.

All this is part of Open Pit’s creative process.

“We’re working in non-traditional ways,” said group member Sarah Moore, who considers herself more of a writer than an actor.

The idea was to do away with the need for a director.

But after four weeks of trying to create a collaborative show, the need for a director snuck back in.

“We have what we call ‘a shaper’ for each scene,” said Hickman.

“The shaper listens to everyone then makes a decision – otherwise we’d never move forward.”

But this is still different than a director, said Hickman.

Because every scene has a different “shaper,” there is not one overarching vision carried forward by one director.

“We all have a voice,” said Hickman.

Trapped together on stage, working through various ideas, Open Pit was struggling with how to tie it all together.

That’s when the group came up with the idea of a bus crash.

“We brainstormed events that could happen in this scenario and each brought in scenes we wanted to direct,” said Hickman.

The result is a birthday party, a death ritual and even a fight.

Now, with one week to go before show time, Open Pit is in a bind.

Does the collective keep working on scenes and “do what it takes to make them good,” said Hickman. Or does it try to tie the whole show together with a beginning, middle and end?

With new text being added everyday, the group is still trying to learn their lines.

And they’re not certain how long the show is, either.

Probably about an hour and a half, said Doyon.

“But we’re not sure, because we’ve never run it yet,” said Hickman.

The collective is not sure what the audience will think when they see it.

“It’s the type of show people might love, or think is really weird,” said Moore.

But weird is not the end goal, added Doyon.

“Our intent is not to be unconventional, or eccentric, or in-your-face, we just want to create something all together, based on physical theatre.”

“We want to expand the scope of theatre in the Yukon,” said Hickman.

“We are trying to allow the public to see the creative process and not just the product.”

The public has been invited to several rehearsals, the group keeps a blog at www.openp.it, and Wednesday’s rehearsal was streamed live online.

The final product will be performed Friday, August 19 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, August 20 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre’s studio theatre. Entrance is by donation and seating is limited.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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