This is How I Left Preview in Gay Calgary Magazine

Third Street Theatre ensemble debuts with intriguing performance

by Janine Eva Trotta, Gay Calgary Magazine, March 10, 2013
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In a very short amount of time the creative bodies that encompass Calgary’s Third Street Theatre‘s Queer Theatre Creation Ensemble have assembled a work that aims to tackle many hard hitting and relevant issues to the LGBTQ community.

This is How I Left, by Conrad Belau, Alyssa Bradac, Dale Lee Kwong, Lindie Last, Kyall Rakoz and Paul Welch, deals with the topics of shame, belonging, identity, and the moral and social responsibilities of living in the world today.

“It also explores the violent crimes perpetrated against our transgendered communities, and asks the question: when something is awakened in you, be it the possibility of hope, happiness, or belonging, and then is gone or taken away, who do we become? How do we heal?” describes Third Street Theatre Artistic Director Paul Welch.

Queer Theatre Creation Ensemble members. From left to right, Alyssa Bradac, Conrad Belau, Dale Lee Kwong, Kyall Rakoz and Lindie Last. Photos courtesty Rylan Broadbent.
Queer Theatre Creation Ensemble members. From left to right, Alyssa Bradac, Conrad Belau, Dale Lee Kwong, Kyall Rakoz and Lindie Last. Photos courtesy Rylan Broadbent.

Auditions for the ensemble were held last September and a five-member team of artists of varying backgrounds was selected.

“We started to discuss, through a Facebook group, various issues that were on our minds as queer individuals here, now,” Welch explains. “News articles, interviews, video clips, movie trailers, and personal thoughts and reflections on the content we were seeing primed us for the creation process.”

On January 20th, the crew began meeting three times weekly, providing opportunity for them to develop and enhance their creative skillsets.

“Which included workshops in authentic movement and participating in a special interview session and online art exhibit at the Art Gallery of Calgary,” Welch says.

“…we discussed our ultimate goal: to create a piece of queer theatre that has a story journey and story narrative, rather than something more abstract and performance art based.”

The group discussed relevant themes: gender politics, stereotyping, labeling, artistic integrity.

“We then unpacked each theme by looking at dictionary definitions, talking about our own personal definitions, and then explored what each thing felt like,” says Welch. “What does it feel to be shamed, to be ashamed, to shame someone else? What does identity mean, what does it feel like when someone assumes something about your identity; why do we get passionate about defending our identities, etc.”

Further researching these topics by talking with people currently dealing with them, the ensemble readied themselves for the creative process to begin. The four performers that were meant to play the four characters this work constitutes were guided through preparative creative meditation.

“We were blown away by the power of our subconscious to lead us to wonderfully creative materials,” Welch says. For instance, “If a character saw a minotaur-like creature in their guided meditation, they investigated minotaurs, labyrinths, and chimera.”

Welch then assigned each performer specific creative tasks to further build up the foundations of their evolving characters.

“We gathered all this material and discussed potential character conflicts, and from that we were able to determine individual character storyline/journey, pin-pointing inciting incidents in their journey – the conflicts during the rising action, and the ultimate climax and resolution,” he says.

The ensemble was given five more rehearsals from this point – roughly 15 hours – in which to fill the gaps left between material created during the creative process from which to cement a workable script, and from there only two additional weeks of rehearsing that script before opening it to the public.

Design by Braden Yamamoto
Design by Braden Yamamoto

This is How I Left is stage managed by Courtney Charnock and designed by Eugenio Sáenz., and will open Thursday March 28th at the Living Spirit United Church in Elboya. Evening performances will continue daily through to Saturday with two afternoon performances slated for Saturday and the close Sunday March 31st.

General tickets are $20 and $15 for students, seniors and Equity artists.

Each performance will be followed by a ‘talk-back’ session, during which audience members may discuss their impressions of the show, ask questions or learn more about the creative process undergone by the cast.

Additionally, running from April 24th to May 4th, Third Street Theatre will be presenting the Pulitzer-prize winning play, I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright. The work is based on the life of transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who survived the Nazi regime and East Berlin communism by preserving queer history in a museum within her home.

Welch will be performing the one-man play under the direction of Kevin McKendrick. I Am My Own Wife will be performed at the Epcor Centre’s Motel venue.

“We are also mentoring emerging queer and queer-minded artists throughout this process in the form of a design intern and assistant director for the show,” Welch says.

For more information on this opportunity, or to get tickets to either upcoming Third Street Theatre performance, visit their website.

“As far as the ensemble goes, there is no future production planned, or even whether we’ll do a creation ensemble next year; it’s too soon to know,” he says. “But we are hoping to give the final script additional life, whether it be through further workshop development or entering it into competitions and festivals.”

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