You won’t see this on TV

Leap series at Prairie Theatre Exchange celebrates new forms of performance

The Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE) Leap series is all about the unexpected. It will feature three shows by local and national artists working at the intersections of multiple artistic mediums over the theatre’s 2018-19 season.

For artistic director Thomas Morgan Jones, the Leap series is a chance to redefine what theatre can mean for Winnipeg audiences.

“The reason we came up with the name Leap was ... to say it’s a leap of faith into different types of theatre than you might be used to,” he says.

“We talk about theatre often, and people think (it’s) only ... people on stage talking to each other in situations that may be set up to be realistic, like in a film. But theatre in fact can be anything. It can be opera, it can be dance, it can be fusions and hybrids and interdisciplinary performance that brings together all these different sorts of things,” Jones says.

“So what we’re trying to do with the Leap series are form and content but mostly form that might be different from what you see in our main seasons.”

University of Winnipeg assistant professor of theatre design Adam Parboonsingh says that when it comes to theatrical form – how theatre is created and the way it is presented – there are dramatic changes happening across the industry.

“I think there’s a shift everywhere, where it’s not just a playwright, the solo artist somewhere else, years before or even dead, where we’re using their script,” he says.

“There is this (shift toward) immediate creation that I think is really important for thinking about creating productions. Dance-oriented, movement, sound design, video design that’s immediate ... I think that’s exciting.”

Vancouver artist Tetsuro Shigematsu’s show Empire of the Son, the first of this year’s Leap series,  embraces this multi-media approach to theatrical performance.

“What you’ll see when you come is (Shigematsu) telling the story of his relationship with his father,” Jones says.

“But what’s interesting is it’s a solo show, so it’s just him on stage … He’s playing in really interesting ways with ... video projection and also object animation. A lot of what he has on a table in front of him are a series of very simple objects that then he’s able to animate, much like how you’d do with puppetry … But then how he blows them up onto a big screen, and how he interfaces with that big screen is as much the storytelling as the language is.”

For Jones, the Leap series is a chance to showcase work that is pushing theatre as a medium.

“That’s the idea,” he says, “to celebrate form, to celebrate interdisciplinary work and to try to ignite a new kind of conversation with our existing audience and ... to foster a new audience that want to come see things that feel contemporary and relevant to their lives and their interests.

“We’re in such competition with the screen ... I think increasingly what makes theatre relevant and exciting is bringing live humans into the room together, but also doing things with form that they can’t see on TV or they can’t binge on Netflix.”

PTE offers a Flex Pass for $50 that gives the holder tickets to all three shows. Regular individual tickets are $20 to $25. Empire of the Son runs Nov. 28 to Dec. 8.

Published in Volume 73, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 22, 2018)

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