Sunday, 5 January 2014

What audiences said...

National Elevator Project (Part 1)

“The National Elevator Project was an incredible night of Theatre. I went with my sister and 14 year old daughter. We loved how the whole evening became an event where we
travelled from site to site and had a new, engaging, funny, insightful and unique experience each time. Walking downtown with our coffees and seeing other audience members doing the same on a crisp fall evening gave us all a sense of adventure and unity. My daughter said she couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day at school. What made it particularly dynamic though was the pieces themselves and the fact that they took place in elevators. Each piece had high stakes and we were given a glimpse into a small moment in time that held great significance and risk for the characters in the elevator. It was intense and sometimes you felt like you shouldn’t look while these intimate, private moments played out merely feet or sometimes inches from you. It magnified the sense that one always has riding an elevator with strangers confined to a small space. The words and stories carried more weight and significance and stayed with me longer as a result. The shared experience was intensely personal, passionate and at times very funny. I hope this project continues to have a life in Edmonton.”
- Annette Loiselle

“The National Elevator Project (Part 1) was a challenging and exciting theatre experience. I was impressed by how much the playwrights could pack in to about 5 minutes. It was like reading a short story or a poem, rather than a novel, I suppose. I figured I might be uncomfortable with some of the scenarios in tight spaces, but I didn't know until after that I could be made uncomfortable in so many different ways, and all of them enlightening. I found myself analyzing my own reactions more than I do when I see a play in a theatre, and felt somewhat selfconscious, particularly when I was in an elevator with actors I know personally. I thought the actors were all very brave to tackle this intimate project, and all did an amazing job. This format is a terrific way to be introduced to a new playwright, and see how each one interpreted the constraints of the space. Some let us eavesdrop on a conversation that might otherwise have taken place privately, as a play in a theatre would, and others included us in the action, sometimes as active participants but also as innocent bystanders or even co-conspirators. I am looking forward to what the playwrights in Part 2 will do with us!”
- Debbie Giesbrecht

“A series of plays set (and performed!) in elevators around the Edmonton downtown, written by some of our most provocative and original playwrights from across the country. It’s a great concept - and the work generated by this bold gesture were never disappointing. I saw The Elevator Project on October 19, and although I must admit that Rick Chafe’s and Greg MacArthur’s plays were especially memorable for me, there was not a single play of the batch which failed to hold my attention. The whole operation ran incredibly smoothly, considering the logistical challenges of such a production concept. And the small groups of theatregoers moving nomadically from one building to another through the afternoon developed a great sense of cameraderie that should be part of every theatre experience - and almost never is. Bravo!”
- Bill Lane

“Do you remember what it was like going on a school field trip when you were a kid? Interest was always peaked and curiosity was always satisfied in a way that was never quite the same in the classroom. Well, seeing The National Elevator Project gave me the same feeling as an adult. Theatre YES took theatre to the streets and elevators of Edmonton. I was engaged in a way that I never have been before or not since I was a kid. It was exciting to dash through downtown Edmonton from venue to venue. Gave me a perspective on this city that I have had since I went on University Pub Crawls! Then in a small elevator I got to stand within inches of the performers. Talk about live theatre! I could hear them breathing, and see their tears and feel their laughter, all because I was on the ride with them and six other audience members. So intimate and exciting and varied and fresh. It was just like going on a field trip and I loved it. When's the next one?”
- Elenor Holt

“I think the NEP is a fantastic project for many reasons. The way that the structure of the project has so many organizations, writers and partners involved is a perfect way to bring theatre makers together in a real way in this day and age. As an audience member I was struck by how the piece made me engage. First as an out-of-towner it made me engage with the city by walking around to the different buildings who had invited a piece into their space. Next it made me engage with the writers words and the actors in an altogether different way. Up-close and personal – sometimes in a pleasant way and sometimes in a challenging or difficult way. And lastly is made me engage with the content of each piece as I thought about it and discussed it with other audience members as we travelled between elevators.”
- Will Brooks

“I offer my full support and encouragement of the National Elevator Project (NEP). As a theatre lover and goer, I was thrilled by the experience I had at the fall shows. The concept is so clever, and executed so well. Shows come across like little snippets or vignettes of everyday life, and it’s so exciting to share them, if only for a few minutes, with a handful of people at a time. Watching people walk around the city all clutching their maps, deciding where to hit next is terrific to see. It’s like we’re all part of a select group on a theatre scavenger hunt, and it’s exciting to be a participant of it. The uniqueness about the NEP is twofold; the closeness with the performers, and the locations. It’s rare that you are within three feet of the performers, and not only watching, but participating! As it’s impossible not to when you’re in such close quarters. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the NEP, and look forward to seeing more of this unique project next year.” 
- Hannah Whittcker

“I attended the National Elevator Project on opening night and finished with a variety feelings about site-specific theatre and its relationship of place and audience. I think the biggest thing I took away was the way in which we, as the audience, were treated in relationship to the performers. In some plays we were active participants, willing or unwilling, a part of the drama itself. In those cases, we were given clues in how to participate and respond. I found fascinating the various ways in which people would become part of the play, based upon their comfort level. In other plays we were there as observer/participants. That is, we were observing the play as fellow passengers in the elevator but not as actual participants in the play itself. In other cases, we were an unseen audience - perhaps the role that most of us are used to when we go to see a play. It was interesting to see how various performers related to us as an audience and how the use of the elevator helped to shape the meaning of each individual drama.”
- Doug Mertz

“On October 24th of this year (2013) I had the pleasure of attending Theatre Yes’s National Elevator Project. Actually, “attending” is not the right word to describe my experience that night. “Attending,” suggests passivity and that is not correct. First of all, walking to each site (and each elevator) required planning and organization and each elevator offered a slightly different experience. The Elevator Project is not a traditional theatre setting, instead by having the 5-minute pieces each taking place in different elevators around downtown Edmonton, it opened, broadened my relationship with the performer and their environment. Instead of just watching a play in a classical location, I became a participant in a unique theatrical setting. A setting for specific, original pieces that cannot be performed anywhere else except for what they were created for. The pieces were well-written and beautifully performed… Theatre Yes’s National Theatre Project was an exciting, tantalizing evening for myself and for others interested in theatre that pushed the boundaries and forced us, the audience to be participants instead of observers.
- Michele Vance Hehir

“What a rush the National Elevator Project (Part 1) gave me! As I enthuse with friends over what a great experience it was, I need to overcome some initial skepticism about five-minute encounters in an elevator being a fun time. But for me, I found that my anti-motion sickness SeaBands® were superfluous, and in addition to the theatrical ‘trip’, there was a reminder of the special pleasure of being downtown after dark, and on foot. I was drawn in by every one of the eight 5-minute plays, and each of them was quite different from all the others. Making my way to the next venue gave me a chance to reflect on what I had just seen, and prepare for what lay ahead. The ability of the actors to immediately engage their fellow elevator-occupants was amazing. Sequentially arousing curiosity, intrigue, vicarious anxiety, dismay, through recognition to realization (or final puzzlement) – all within close quarters – the players left me satisfied, yet eager for more. Several plays could be categorized as being about relationships. Although sometimes painful, they pushed the viewer to consider multiple perspectives. I value theatre that invites me to think more broadly and to consider my own biases. We are so lucky to have risk taking professionals who provide provocative and thoughtful performances in our city. The fine weather in October made travel from one venue to the next easy, but the January Part 2 is bound to have its own special charm. Can’t wait.” 
- Rosemarie Cunningham

“My first experience of the elevator plays was in February of this year. I heard about this project from Heather Inglis, and was quite curious about its incarnation. When I got to the venue and there were a few people gathered and waiting; the elevator can only “seat”a few people at a time. My turn came and I was placed to wait outside the elevator. The doors opened and we were off! In this piece we were treated like droids, and manipulated by the actors into our places. The close contact with the actors, the familiarity with the elevator space, the broken fourth wall – and broken theatre convention of seating the audience – all contributed to give us a realistic, intimate theatre experience. I left the elevator full of wonder, and enjoyed the long walk down the hall (also part of the piece) to linger over the fullness of my mood. I also attended the project when it was completed, in October of 2013. The closeness of the performance space was almost too much for my nerves at first, (I couldn’t stop giggling nervously), but I eventually calm down. As I move through the project, I start to inhabit the elevators as if I were cast in a role. (I attended alone. As in, I didn’t bring a guest – there were others in the elevator.) The elevator, often portrayed in media as a celltype environment, quickly morphed into a much more comfortable space, like a cocoon. A familiar space to anyone who has ever visited a downtown, the tiny vestibule meant that we can see and hear the cast with ease. I knew the pieces wouldn’t be long (the parameters of the event dictate this). I begin to cast myself in a role. The role of The Witness. I am not the focus here, I can relax and observe all that unfolds quietly and openly. And I do. The mere act of standing to view the piece – mirroring the actor’s position – further blurs the line between actor and audience. I engage and absorb. Then, the piece ends. The doors open, I am released. I linger in the lobby, not wanting to leave the scene just yet. It is an intense and brief encounter that wants to be processed. Eventually, I move one. The quiet walk to the next venue allows me a brief grasp of reality, while readying myself for the next performance. I enjoyed the project thoroughly; I saw it twice (and would have again if time permitted), and I can’t wait for the next incarnation.”
-Rebecca Starr

"I have attended many site-specific theatre performances through the years, both in Europe and North America, and I thought the NEP was one of the most original. Not only did NEP use a variety of different locations instead of just one as it happens in most site-specific shows, it also created a network of possible itineraries in downtown Edmonton that the audience could engage in different order and on different days. This freedom gave the audience members the agency to decide how to shape their own experience and, given the interactive nature of some of the plays, it cast them in the role of co-creators. I attended the performance(s) on opening night and I found the walking from venue to venue exhilarating for the chance it gave me to talk with my partner about the show we had just seen, but also for how it allowed me to experience the city landscape in new and meaningful ways. The space I walked to reach the plays' venues became immediately social, interactive, and ripe with possibilities as I moved from building to building, and from story to story, and constructed a mental map that was intrinsically both geographical and narrative. The selection of the NEP's plays was interesting and representative of the diversity of Canadian drama, and even though the overall dramaturgical quality of a couple of the pieces was questionable, their staging made up for this flaw. After I saw the NEP, I strongly recommended my friends to go. I believe it workshops new artistic avenues for the staging of plays and re-imagines successfully the roles of performers and spectators in contemporary theatre."
-Stefano Muneroni

“I was lucky enough to go to the opening night of Yes Theatre's National Elevator project and managed to see all eight plays in one evening. The plays were interesting, well-acted and- this may sound strange given their location-well-staged. The elevators in these plays were not gimmicks. They were integral to the story we were hearing and seeing. It was fascinating to be so close to the actors and in some cases, to be an actual part of the story. This happened in a non- threatening way- I never felt I was put on the spot and forced to do anything. Some of the plays were hilarious; at others, I almost cried at the poignancy and emotions I felt privileged to witness. I think this is exactly the kind of innovative theatre project a place like down town Edmonton needs. Office towers that are usually dead spaces in the evening became vibrant, active locations for theatre. City streets that usually don't see much pedestrian traffic after dark had people walking around from space to space. I've seen a lot of theatre- and this was definitely one of the most imaginative and innovative. It was a great evening of theatre- and I am really looking forward to seeing the next installment at the Canoe Theatre Festival in January.”
-Nola Keeler

No comments:

Post a Comment