What is life — and death — like in the communist dictatorship of North Korea?
Award winning theatre company Boca del Lupo’s new production My Dad, My Dog attempts to show audiences just that.
The play is an account of a North Korean woman who believes that her deceased father has returned to her, reincarnated as her pet dog.
Live actors interact with miniatures, animation and watercolour paintings for a truly unique theatre experience.
All of the artwork, including animation drawn as the play unfolds, is created by Yukon-based animation artist Jay White.
“I’d never even been on a stage before, it was crazy,” said White on Tuesday.
“But I love it, it’s totally different every night — it’s really addictive.”
White is an animator and painter and has been living in Marsh Lake for the past four years.
His artwork has been greatly affected by the move north; his paintings have changed from dark, bitter city scenes to more peaceful landscapes.
“It’s not very cool to paint landscapes, I know,” said White.
“But I can’t help it.”
White has been animating since 1997, and studied at the Vancouver Film School.
But most of his artwork has been self-taught, especially his watercolour paintings.
White’s sketches and paintings portray a contrast between man and nature.
People, animals and strange combinations of the two interact in his simplistic, yet beautiful drawings.
For the last four years, White has been creating his own animated shorts.
His latest, Boar Attack, is a film about an over-cautious young man coming to terms with his missing father.
The animation will be showing at the beginning of each performance of My Dad, My Dog.
White worked previously with Boca del Lupo on a production called The Perfectionist.
For that show, White provided animation projected on a screen in the background, which the actors interacted with somewhat.
“When we did it we were just like, ‘Whoa man, there’s so much more that can be done with this, so many things that we didn’t have time to do,’” said White.
“So we decided to do another one and experiment with what can be done.”
White created My Dad, My Dog, along with Sherry Yoon and Jay Dodge from Boca del Lupo.
In the production the screen plays a major role.
The screen tells the story as much as the actors on stage and the two interact throughout the play, said White.
And he creates some of the art on stage as the play progresses.
My Dad, My Dog debuted at the Vancouver Push Festival where the group put on about a dozen shows.
“My vibe was that people really liked it,” said White.
“It was a good crowd every night, which is pretty amazing considering that it was snowing and when it snows in Vancouver everything shuts down.”
It was difficult work to recreate the secretive communist nation, said White.
Most of the photographs that are released are of polished monuments and manicured parks and gardens.
There is very little information about day-to-day life.
This meant that the group had to do a lot of research while creating the play.
White gained much inspiration for his background paintings from the graphic novel Pyongyang by French-Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle, as well as a few documentaries.
Sherry Yoon, who plays the lead role, was born in South Korea and has a lot of family living north of the demilitarized zone.
“It’s a pretty personal thing for her, but it’s also pretty interesting to watch,” said White.
Like her character in My Dad, My Dog, Yoon is mourning the loss of her father.
“It’s interesting, there’s an element of really personal non-fiction brought into the story,” said White.
“She’s in this character, but she also sometimes addresses the audience in a very direct way.
“It’s pretty brave.”
My Dad, My Dog will be showing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week at 8 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Tickets cost $20 for adults, $10 for children/seniors and $5 with an ArtRUSH Teen Pass.