Maintaining the Edge
Juggling the match and the dynamite
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
B2C Theatre engages audiences with familiar and relevant themes presented in unfamiliar ways. They strive to create cutting-edge theatre that aggressively reaches its audiences by exploring dark themes, rich texts, heightened physicality and tension, and bold visual imagery through a fusion of artistic forms. Their aim is to ‘provoke and charge the soul’ by creating intense and visceral productions that have a modern, social, and artistic relevance to the world today. Lauren Brotman and Jack Grinhaus share artistic directorship...and more.
CHARPO: Before we dive into the show, a little birdie told me you've just had a child. You share theatre and life projects. How does that dynamic play out?
BROTMAN: In rehearsal we have an amazing caregiver on site with us. That way we're not separated from our 2.5 month old for the 9 hour day, but we can still work rigorously on the piece. Breaks are all about feeding Ethan and spending time with him which keeps us all connected. At home we spend a few hours a night producing, one of us with our son, and the other working on the check list, switching after every task. We also make sure we have an hour or so before bed where it's just the three of us. While it's a hugely challenging time, I couldn't feel more lucky that everything that is important to me is so incredibly intertwined right now.
GRINHAUS: He's a true theatre baby. A trooper that has a dirty butterfly onesie and is a producer on sight, being in charge of breaks and all. But our lives as artists have always coincided with our personal lives. Lauren and I have lived and worked together since the inception of B2C, so Ethan joining us was just the next logical step.
I do think we like to provoke but not just for the sake of it
CHARPO: Now the company, and continuing with this theme a bit: you produce "cutting edge" and "dark" theatre. There's a standup comic who once said, "If I ever start talking about my kid, shoot me!" He was referring to the edge some artists lose. Is that a concern?
BROTMAN: Not at all. We are who we are. We've always been this way. Even as we change (and this includes talking about our new son:), we will always be who we are, couldn't change that if we wanted to. (Although a comedy is probably in order soon...a dark, cutting edge comedy....we'll take suggestions)
GRINHAUS: We do the work we do because it is what interested us and we saw a need for it here in Toronto. Working on pieces that challenge our artists and audiences and also tackles fringe issues is something we think we do well and can provide in the theatre ecology here. As Lauren said, it's who we are.... We just connect to a particular type of work and assume that if we connect to it there's probably others who will as well. Thus far that has proven true enough for us to continue working this way.
CHARPO: Plays about race/abuse must be like juggling lit matches and a stick of dynamite! One of those subjects alone is hairy! Are you positing or provoking? Or, even, should those two things be one?
BROTMAN: Hmm. Good question. On one hand our choice for choosing this piece was entirely because of the exciting text. It wasn't until we dug more deeply into it that we realized how loaded it was. It shed light on the issues you mentioned but from an entirely new perspective and form. The piece itself is provocative.We just chose it. That said, I do think we like to provoke but not just for the sake of it.
GRINHAUS: Yes I think we do like to provoke. Theatre stemmed from an idea that communing together over a cathartic experience helps societies to grow through that shared experience. I don't think we try to teach or instruct people in any way. We just present the work in an exciting and unique way so as to spark interest and/or debate in those issues. As a director I'm all about lighting the match rather than juggling it.
Mining the dense text was relentless.
CHARPO: It must be satisfying as all hell to go back to a successful work...or is it? Have you taken it out of the amber?
BROTMAN: The first time round was gruelling. Mining the dense text was relentless. This time round we're still figuring it out (the text, the staging, the performance and execution of it), but this time round we can breathe through it since so much exploration has happened. The new exploration is exciting but not as terrifying. That said we are negotiating so much more on the producing side and personal side. It's amazing that it's all working really well together but the fact is that if one little thing breaks down, the whole thing will fall apart, and while challenging, it is incredibly exciting for us to jump into the abyss at this particular time in our lives, on this particular project, with this particular group of artists.
GRINHAUS: This is new for me as I am always excited to put the work out into the ether and then move forward to new things. But in this case we are able to re-examine this very dense text and mine it for ideas missed and that gives it a sense of newness, for me. Albert Schultz recently said to me that he didn't believe in remounts, that it is always a new show. I have to agree. We have new company members and a new space and more time to rather re-envision the play. It really is a new show. The text is about the only thing people will recognize from our last go at it. And it's very exciting. I remember wanting to do this play originally because I read it and had no idea how to direct it. This time around I only half know. That fear of the unknown is very exciting, drives me, and as you say is very satisfying.
GRINHAUS: We believe that audiences are always complicit in the action presented in the theatre. When we present the stories and the issues in our productions we are encouraging audiences to reflect on their roles as voyeurs and humans. We hope that when they leave the show they will have viscerally felt something as well as have been intellectually inspired to consider the issues and events presented so that they can make the connections to their own lives. We do this in the simple hope of giving them what art at its best can and should provide; inspiration to question, reflect, and better understand ourselves and the world around us.