Setting the stage

Theatre Incarnate gears up for its 18th production

Leif Norman

Over the course of almost two decades, Theatre Incarnate has staged 17 productions and become a fixture in Winnipeg’s independent theatre community.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time, but there have been some breaks in between, mostly to develop scripts with writers or devise new pieces of theatre,” Brenda McLean, the troupe’s co-artistic leader and production designer, explains.

Everything began when McLean met Eric Bossé and Christopher Sobczak, who now serve as technical director and general manager, respectively, in addition to co-artistic leaders. The trio met while studying theatre at the University of Manitoba. 

“We decided we wanted to create our own theatre to develop new works together and that’s pretty much why we founded Theatre Incarnate,” McLean says.

McLean says there’s been some stand-out productions over the years, most notably Arcadia, which was produced in 2007 during the annual Master Playwright Festival.

Overall, Theatre Incarnate focuses on producing experimental forms of theatre you probably wouldn’t see at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

“We often experiment with physical theatre forms and we get performers to try different types of skills like clowning, bouffon and miming,” she says.

“Some of our plays have no dialogue whatsoever and just focus on movement. Other plays are heavily dialogue based like Arcadia, but we stage it in a more intimate and independent setting.”

Since 2006, Theatre Incarnate has called Studio 320 home, a building on Albert Street that serves as a practice and performance space.

“We use it a lot, but so do some other companies and it’s also used during the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and the Master Playwright Festival,” she says. “We also offer workshops there and twice a month we’re doing ones on contact improvisation, which is a dance technique that actors use to use their bodies to move and dance with each other.”

Last September, Theatre Incarnate worked with local playwright Jeremy Scarth Bowkett to stage Maple Route at Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Colin Jackson Studio Theatre. 

“That play takes place in Winnipeg in 1993 and it follows some Winnipeg soldiers returning from Croatia after the genocidal conflict that took place there,” she says. “Jeremy came to us with some ideas and we liked the storyline he had in this one. We especially liked that it was a local story and based on actual research he did with real soldiers that came back.”

Currently, Theatre Incarnate is working on a new play by Ardyth Johnson called Whitechapel Redemption, which McLean also acts in. 

“That play is in a bouffon clown style and follows three vagrant women who have an unlikely run-in with Jack the Ripper in 1880s London,” she explains. 

“We’re going to produce it in March and we’re just working on the script and developing the design now. We’ve started experimenting with bouffon over the last year and we really like it. This particular script is really letting us try something new that’s not being done in Winnipeg and challenge ourselves theatrically, which is something we always want to do.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2014)

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