More than music and sound, Open Ears is a full calendar of art

My favourite festivals are soon to start. We are right around the corner from CAFKA and Open Ears.

I will be running photos and reviews about the art of CAFKA as I stumble upon it in my journeys through downtown.

Open Ears is a less simple event to describe before seeing. When I try to talk about it, I like to describe it as a full orchestra of intrigue presented in a calendar of events related by brilliant curation.

Sound is all around us. From the droning of in-building HVAC and fans, to outdoor constancy of cars, wildlife, winds, we are constantly tuning out by being constantly tuned in.

From June 5 – 15 we will be asked to open our ears and tune back in. The full calendar will include a trio of new Canadian operas. Think of it… when was the last time you heard a new opera.

Another highlight is a presentation of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. This play was written by Iranian author Nassim Soleimonpour. Up until recently, he had never seen the play that he had written. This play is presented in a novel format: The readers of the play are not given the script until they are ready to go on stage. There they see it for the first time as they read it live. The nature of this transcends the disconnect of a playwright who for years was never able to see his creation. The echo of the unrehearsed voice mirroring the voice of the censored writer… a truly revolutionary piece of theatre.

Open Ears will be presenting it read by Majdi Bou Matar – multi-talented artistic director of the MT Space, Nora YoungCBC tech culture personality, Mike Farwell – radio host, Kitchener Rangers announcer and local philanthropist, and Grace Lynn Kungactor from the cult film Hypercube, and starred in Being Erica and InSecurity.

I will leave you with a final highlight. What is sure to be a pleasing presentation is by artist Shary Boyle. This outstanding artist was featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Boyle will be bringing new work to Open Ears, but here’s a taste of a previous work.

Occupying the Stage – The MT Space Delivers a Powerful New Creation

IMPACT 13

What do you get when you combine three major world movements, an ensemble of artists, the powerful media of storytelling and physical theatre, and projection?

Occupy Spring is an examination of a world in conflict through the eyes of the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and Idle No More. The MT Space wowed audiences in a powerful first workshop of its latest creation.

As a testament to this company, this piece has only been built over five days rehearsal, and typical to Majdi Bou Matar’s process as the artistic director of this company, he opened the floor to a talk back by audience for the development of this new work. The commentary was vibrant with lots of feedback from an audience left impressed. Could Occupy Spring eventually resound with the same power as MT Space’s The Last 15 Seconds?

The Staging of Innovation

The audience enters the Registry Theatre with the stage covered in a scrim. This device immediately removes the audience from the stage and serves the purpose of separation and inclusion as lighting and projection onto the scrim highlights, adds images, paints scenes and builds a conceptual set decorated in moving and powerful images. The projection closes the stage through overpowering the scrim with its brightness and then opens hole when darkened with the performers lit from the backstage. In this moment when these holes open, the actors emerge with monologues, and then the physical ensemble builds metaphors for the stories told.

The stories themselves range from an indigenous woman (Monique Mojica) describing a 1960s protest against the Bureau of Indian Affairs; a man from Halifax NS (Nicholas Cumming) speaking about the long term effects of herbicides on the health of his community; a Syrian woman (Nada Humsi) reminiscing about her peaceful life in her home country compared to it now – torn in conflict – and its terrifying future as she waits to see the outcomes of foreign intervention on her beloved home. Each actor of the cast of seven presents how their hearts, their philosophies and their bodies are affected in a world torn.

Despite the abstraction of physical theatre, the metaphors presented by the ensemble are clear. From comparing extreme human behaviour to instinctual animal reactions, to a humourous display showing a sleeping, boastful Parliament Hill, the stories come alive with the well honed control of this cast so well experienced with telling their tales through their bodies.

The use of projection, sometimes too distracting in this first go, creates an ever changing and animated set. Bou Matar has proven in this minimalist concept by Alejandro Valbuena that opulent effect can exist despite the lack of physical set. Light designer Jennifer Jimenez showed extraordinary capability in her offset from the projections with lighting ranging from the subtle to the highly dramatic. This blend of animation and stage has placed the flexibility of film and the powerful connection of theatre into a single venue. The combination of lighting, projection and movement theatre provides flexibility and power on a stage, but will require more consideration to minimize distraction from monologues and ensemble work.

This innovative development left this reviewer hungry for The MT Space and their unique style. Seeing the addition of projection and stories of a large ensemble brought to life in an experimental, yet accessible way connected me to actors and left me desirous of bearing witness to the entire process of creation.

You can witness this iteration of Occupy Spring tonight at the Registry Theatre at 7pm.