Safe, spaced and sound theatre

Indie collectives collaborate on pandemic-friendly theatre

Blink, a new theatrical collaboration between Walk and Talk Theatre Company and One Trunk Theatre, is a new science fiction comedy-drama, which will be read by actors who will be accompanied by live and pre-recorded sound effects at the West End Cultural Centre (WECC) for a two-day run. 

Playwright Ben Townsley and director Ray Strachan used sound effects and isolated tents to create the socially distant theatrical experience Blink.

Written by Ben Townsley and directed by Evie-nominated Ray Strachan, the play will feature sound design by jaymez. Audiences will experience these socially distanced performances with other members of their households from the safety of tents inside the venue. 

The tents will not only provide peace of mind for audiences but also physically embody Blink’s themes of community and darkness. “I hope that it is a unique and special connective experience with people in these tents,” Townsley says. 

“I’ve never seen anything like that before, experienced anything like that before,” director Ray Strachan says. “That aspect of staging excites me, as well as the dependency on sound, rather than having to depend on your eyes to see the story.” 

“It is like a little village near a stage. That was the thing that kicked the project into its final form. What is in a community? How does that community handle the dark, whatever that dark may be?” Townsley says. 

Townsley, with collaborators Tanner Manson and Duncan Cox, who are also featured in Blink, form Walk and Talk Theatre Company. They won the 2018 Harry Rintoul Award for The Ballad of Johnny Boy and were nominated in 2019 for The Headliners and in 2017 for King. One Trunk Theatre has also created boundary-pushing productions like Red Earth and I Dream of Diesel with Theatre Projects Manitoba. Together, these two innovative collectives have created theatre for these pandemic times. 

Blink was first conceived by Townsley as part of the Creators Unit at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, led by Andraea Sartison, founding artistic producer at One Trunk Theatre and playwright Rick Chafe. When their in-person workshops went online, Townsley wrote a radio play, which piqued the interest of Sartison and Manson. 

“It was almost like writing a book, getting to go to wherever in the world I wanted to go and being able to take someone there. There is literally nothing that we can’t do,” Townsley says.

He describes Blink as “a guided meditation gone wrong as the sun sets. A city slides into the sea, and we stumble through life in the dark.”

“There are so many possibilities,” Strachan says. “It is still a work in progress.” When they enter the venue, the team will work with designer jaymez to make the 3D soundscape of Blink. Alongside the members of Walk and Talk Theatre, the play features the performances of fellow Harry S. Rintoul Award winner Cuinn Joseph, as well as Kara Joseph, Melissa Langdon, Montana Lehmann and the playwright himself, Townsley. 

Blink plays at the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice Ave.) on Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. (including dinner from Feast Cafe Bistro) and Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. The venue is wheelchair accessible, and performances are socially distanced. Blink launches on Oct. 31 and will be available wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 04 of The Uniter (October 1, 2020)

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