Monday, January 27, 2014

The Question... Colin Lalonde on Studio Porte Bleue

In Search of a Deeper Connection
I hear far too often that people 'don’t get' theatre.
by Estelle Rosen

Colin Lalonde trained as an actor at John Abbott College. After completing his training he began a theatre company, Vanguard Productions, where he directed multiple performances including Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood. He went on to complete his BA in Honours Theatre at the University of Ottawa. While studying in Ottawa he became a part of the performance and research group Les Ateliers du Corps, a group led by Professor Daniel Mroz that offers its participants sustained training in embodied practices including Taijiquan, Qigong and contemporary voice work. This training is then used to devise new performances that are aesthetically similar to the work of Eugenio Barba and Odin Teatret. Mr. Lalonde went on to pursue his Masters in International Performance Research at the University of Warwick (UK) and the University of Arts Belgrade (Serbia). While travelling and researching he worked with the performance group Dah in Belgrade, attended workshops with Richard Schechner, and with his colleagues he helped begin a yearly performance series examining ignored and unused urban spaces entitled UNLISTED (performed in Belgrade in 2012 and Pittsburgh in 2013). He is now the Artistic Director of Studio Porte Bleue. 

CHARPO: It takes a lot of guts to start a new theatre company these days. What are the goals of Studio Porte Bleue and why was this piece selected as the first presentation?

LALONDE: After returning to Montreal after six years away, I decided to create a space in my native city that was dedicated to artistic development and experimentation. While away, I had the pleasure of working with a variety of different practitioners and academics from a wide array of performance and artistic backgrounds. This opened my mind to many different possibilities in performance. Studio Porte Bleue was born out of the motivation to dedicate myself to finding an outlet to explore and expand upon all of my experiences outside of the city. 

I Don’t Know Where Here Is was an ideal first production for the company for multiple reasons.

Studio Porte Bleue is a multi-disciplinary arts studio that is dedicated to producing and exhibiting works that intend to push the aesthetic and/or social boundaries of its spectators and contributing artists. Special emphasis is placed upon new and experimental works that are founded upon the impetus of artist development. The studio works towards creating a dialogue between art consumers and creators to better foster a critical exchange leading to deeper understanding and analysis of artistic productions and processes.This strikes me as incredibly important. In a time when theatre and performance is relegated to the sidelines of cultural consumption, it is imperative for theatre creators to reach out to their spectators and have a deeper connection and dialogue. 

I hear far too often that people 'don’t get' theatre. Our goal is to create new, experimental work that is challenging but in an environment that isn't intimidating and fosters positive critical and creative exchange. Our hope is that by producing events where artists come into contact with their audiences in formal and informal ways, holding public readings and discussion nights, and offering performances that can be performed in the homes of our patrons, we can nurture mutually beneficial creative relationships between those who view art and those that create it. Beyond this, I would love to see greater cross-pollination between artists of differing genres and crafts. That is why for our first production, I Don’t Know Where Here Is, written and performed by Montreal’s Jessica Rose, we have surrounded the performance with visual art created by local artists, up for sale after the show. Surrounding the performance by the work of visual artists brings an entirely new dimension to the performance as well as attracts an entirely new clientele to reach out to and hopefully build artistic relationships with over time. We encourage our audiences to hang out after the performance and discuss the show with one another and with Jessica and myself. Candid feedback is encouraged via “Post-it” notes in the bathroom for audience members to leave their feedback and reviews. We have had great responses thus far and have had some audiences stay past midnight in the space with us. This informal environment is hugely beneficial to creating the kind of atmosphere where critical exchange and personal responses can be shared as well as engaging with the work of the visual artists displayed in the space.

I Don’t Know Where Here Is was an ideal first production for the company for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it was important for me to produce a piece that was home grown from Montreal. Jessica Rose and I had worked on the show in 2008 and I had always wanted to stage the show in an intimate and personal way that is very difficult to achieve at the Fringe Festival when the set must be taken down and put up every day. Since 2008, Jessica undertook her Bachelors in creative writing at Concordia University and was hungry to rewrite and develop the play even further. Through the development process, we have created in many ways an entirely new performance – one that is much more structured, intimate and heartbreaking whilst maintaining the whimsy and manic hilarity of the original. 

The show is a quirky coming of age one-woman show written and performed by Map D.L. Row (a character written and performed by Jessica Rose). The piece explores the troubled relationships Map has with her mother, reality and ultimately herself in a poetic and manically hilarious performance. Combining poetry, prose, piano, Barbie puppetry and rap, Map delves into her many obsessions and concerns spanning existential insecurities over love and time to a fixation on her potential paternal link to Dustin Hoffman.

Jan. 24 - Feb. 2 

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