With many Vancouver theatre companies closing up their main stage seasons as summer approaches, youth and emerging-artist productions are springing up for what seems to be the month of theatre festivals. For many emerging artists, May is an invaluable and affordable opportunity to create new, independent and often experimental work and Quimera Theatre Collective’s new festival Tales in Crux is no exception. In partnership with Now! Theatre, Quimera will be producing five new plays written by its members starting on May 23rd at CBC Studios to add to the month’s festival extravaganza.
Keep in mind Tales in Crux and the other festivals listed here are being presented at the same time as a surge of surfacing blog posts, pushing for a re-invention, or at least a re-evaluation, of contemporary theatre aesthetics and audience engagement. Last month, we talked about giving theatre audience’s a reason to turn off Netflix, and articles like Fannina Waubert de Puiseau’s “How Canadian Theatre is Killing itself” and Christine Quintana’s “Thank You for Coming” echoed similar sentiments. Tales in Crux is steeped in that desire to bring audiences something fresh, insightful and a kind of story-telling entertainment you can’t get off the Internet.
Tales in Crux is not your conventional theatre festival. While other short-play festivals feature a succession of plays often unrelated thematically, Quimera Theatre has weaved its five new stories into a multi-layered narrative to keep the audience fully immersed in the action. Borrowing from the narrative style of the 1001 Arabian Nights, Tales in Crux starts with the story Arinjay whose characters Roger and Jade, an eccentric non-couple who suffer from emotional anxiety about romantic feelings (they make Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock seem kosher). The pair uses stories, the four other plays in the festival, to spill their guts during the final hours of their relationship with the tedious help of the anthropomorphic Bodies and Voices who embody the stories being told.
Whatever your theatrical tastes, Tales in Crux has a grab-bag lineup that encompass a variety of genres: Last Call is a 20-something bar comedy, The Bridge takes us through a post-apocalyptic struggle between friends, the trouble and strife of newlyweds oozes through Orbweaver, and haunting loves of the past sashay about in Ball Change. The intermixed spectacle is designed to keep an audience on its toes through this anthology of comedic, tragic and surrealist tales that mirror some of the happiness and horror of young adult life.
“It’s about immersion for us,” playwright and director Paula Zelaya Cervantes says. “We don’t want these plays to exist in isolation from each other. They’re connected like we’re connected through the company.”
Just like the mythological beast of the company’s namesake, the “chimera”, composed of a lion, a snake and a goat, Quimera draws its collaborative talent from graduates and students of the largest theatre programs at UBC, SFU and Studio 58. The festival is collectively produced by Quimera co-founders Jayda Paige Novak, Paula Zelaya Cervantes, Matthew Willis, May Bosaing, Caitlin Docking and Nick Rinke, but includes an eclectic band of 15 other artists, playwrights, directors, actors and designers.
“We’ve participated in festivals like this before but with a producing structure already in place,” May Bosaing, an actor and playwright in the festival, says. “It’s big for a relatively new company like us and takes a lot of organization, especially when you’re also writing or directing and doing admin. Everyone’s enthusiasm, though, has managed to push things along pretty nicely.”
For Quimera, writing new plays from scratch—creating something from nothing—is par for the course. The company emphasises the creation of new, dramaturgically interesting work that challenges the audience’s perception of itself as well as what is right in front of them. Tales in Crux embodies that mandate for such stories in this world of freely accessible entertainment.
“The focus for us is putting on plays,” says Jayda Paige Novak, a director and playwright. “It’s never been about making money or a profit which sometimes can cause troubles. I think that’s why we like the word ‘crux’ so much: we find ourselves in cruxes when we’re trying to do something big like this while not necessarily having the funding or financial support. But in the end, it’s all about telling stories in the most interesting way possible.”
Tales in Crux will play at CBC Studios on 700 Hamilton St. on May 23th-24th and 26th-28th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets and for more information about the festival and the company.
By Matthew Willis
Illustration: Jeremy Hannigan