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Posts tagged ‘Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace’

Legends, Myths and Remounts: In Conversation with Sarah Thorpe – Writer, Co-Director & Solo actor of Soup Can Theatre’s “Heretic”

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I sat down with Sarah Thorpe, writer, co-director and solo actor of Heretic, to talk about legends, myths, and doing it all over again. 

Madryn McCabe: Tell me a bit about Heretic?

Sarah Thorpe: Heretic is essentially Joan of Arc in this afterlife space, looking back on her life and the decisions she made, and questioning whether it was worth it in the end. Should she have made the decisions that she did? I wanted to frame it in that way because, obviously, Joan was killed when she was nineteen because of what she did, so every account of her story is from someone else’s perspective, someone else’s opinion… so with some artistic license, it’s her side of the story – what she was feeling, thinking, going through… I wanted to present her in a way that takes down the saintly persona that surrounds her. She’s always depicted that way in plays and in literature, and I just thought that I wanted to explore her as a regular, vulnerable human being.

MM: What inspired Heretic? Where did the idea come from?

ST: It came from a monologue from Shaw’s Saint Joan that I had done for auditions before, and I found that it really hit an emotional note with me. I thought it would be interesting to explore this emotional connection further, and explore this person. I realized that I had all these questions… What was she thinking before her execution? What was she thinking when she stepped onto the battlefield for the first time? What was going through her mind? Was she terrified? Or thinking ‘No, I’ve got this!’

MM: How much research did you have to do into Joan’s life?

ST: A fair amount of research, but I’ve certainly taken a lot of artistic license as well. Not much of Joan is known before she joined the French army and started fighting in the 100 Years War.

MM: We seem to only know about Joan of Arc the Warrior, who heard voices from God, and only just the very brief period of time when she was fighting in the war.

ST: Right! So, we know about that, and we know that she was captured and executed. But, not a whole lot is known about her life before that. We do touch on that and how she was living this life on a farm with her parents and had a simple, medieval farming existence. The 100 Years War started in the 1330s, so she was born into a period of war going on around her, born into this environment where that was sort of what they were used to. It had gone on for so long. How I interpreted the aspect of her hearing voices was her wanting so much to say ‘No, we shouldn’t put up with this. This isn’t right. We’re being occupied, and it shouldn’t be an English king on the throne. We should do something about it.’

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

MM: Do you have a writing partner, or did you tackle this story on your own?

ST: I wrote it on my own. Justin Haigh did the dramaturgy on this remount. I re-wrote the script from the original version that we did in April.

MM: I was just about to ask, how much of an overhaul has this version gotten? Is there a lot of new stuff going on? What might bring people back who have already seen it?

ST: It’s not a huge overhaul. Some scenes were rewritten, some scenes were cut completely. In doing the remount, I thought that I could write some stuff better, and go into more depth of what I could interpret into what she was thinking and feeling and going through. So, for people who saw the April production and want to come back, I would say that there’s more emotional depth, and a bit more action. It also looks completely different. We have a whole new design team. The look of the show is totally different, yet still keeps with my vision. The way I always pictured it was people coming into a space resembling a medieval tomb. It’s kept with that same idea, but in a totally different way.

MM: Did you find that things changed much in the rehearsal room as well?

ST: Rehearsal was, again, a bit different. We have the same stage manager as last year, which is great. Directing-wise-Matt Bernard directed the April production, and this time around Scott Dermody and I are co-directing. Matt and Scott have different directing styles, so it’s been different rehearsing just because of the different approaches. I feel like I’m working harder this time around! It’s not that I wasn’t into it the first time around, and I don’t know how or why, but I feel extra committed now.

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

MM: Do you find that you can easily separate all your roles as writer, director, actor, or does each one influence what the other does?

ST: I’ve gotten better at knowing when to turn off the producer brain and turn on the actor brain, or the writer brain. Certainly when I was doing the rewrites, it was really just writer brain. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. But once we started rehearsals and looked at the script from an acting perspective, I’d sometimes think ‘Why the hell would I write something that way? What was I thinking?!’ I’ve gotten better at differentiating, and what helps me is making that bit of time to focus on the different things. I have to write a little schedule… so it’s 12-1 I’ll run lines, 1-2 I’ll do a bunch of social media and post things, then I’ll look at the design that’s just been sent, and look from that perspective. And luckily, I’m sharing the directing responsibilities. I wanted to have a hand in the directing this time, as well, to have a say in the design concept but Scott really is the eyes that are making sure I’m delivering a good performance.

MM: Do you prefer this avenue of creating your own show and having so much say in the producing versus the more traditional auditioning for another company and being directed in a specific part?

ST: As an actor, this is the first time I’ve done anything like this. I hadn’t written anything outside of theatre school. I have to say that it’s really satisfying to create my own work from the ground up. As an artist, overall I’ve really enjoyed that process. I do also enjoy the more traditional process, though. There are some scripts that I’d love to tackle as a director too.

MM: What do you want people to know coming into the show?

ST: What I find exciting and compelling is that we’re introducing people to a person who is always portrayed as higher than other humans. She’s a saint, she’s holy, she’s perfect, a saviour. I find her way more interesting when we see that she screwed up sometimes and made mistakes and bad decisions and maybe she shouldn’t have done some of what she did. I find her, and I hope everyone else does, compelling to see as a vulnerable, flawed being just trying to do what she feels is right.


Presented by Soup Can Theatre

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Written and Performed by Sarah Thorpe
Co-Directed by Sarah Thorpe & Scott Dermody
Scenography – Alyksandra Ackerman
Lighting Designer – Randy Lee
Sound Designer/Production Manager – Wesley McKenzie
Dramaturge – Justin Haigh
Stage Manager – Kathleen Hemsworth

When: November 11 – 22, 2015

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.

Tickets: $15-22, online: phone: 416-504-7529, in person: 16 Ryerson Ave.


Soup Can Theatre: @SoupCanTheatre

Sarah Thorpe: @thorpe_s

In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_

Madryn McCabe: @FuriousMAD



A Wake For Lost Time – A 24-hour Durational Piece January 10-11th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace

Interview by Hallie Seline

I met with the fine folks of the Elephants in the Room collective in the TPM backspace this week as they were in the throws of refining their first ever 24-hour durational performance piece experiment A Wake For Lost Time, running Friday January 10th-Saturday January 11th, with a live-stream component. 

HS: Hi friends. Care to introduce yourselves and what you do? 

MS: Moez Surani, Poet. (he laughs)

MR: … I wish I could introduce myself as “Poet”. Hello, I’m Michael Reinhart, and I guess I would say I’m a Theatre Creator.

HS: So tell me about the Elephants in the Room collective and how you started.

MR: We’re a group of artists who wanted to find new ways of working, integrating other forms and to find ways to create some synthesis between our different artistic forms. Many of us had been inspired by companies in Europe and New York who had found ways to create that synthesis, like the Wooster Group and She She Pop for example, and many of us hadn’t been satisfied in the past with the opportunities or lack of opportunities we had to explore these kinds of creation methods. We all auditioned in various ways in response to a posting done by Theatre Passe Muraille and here we are.
Our hope over the past few months has been to come into the experience with our different backgrounds and influences, whether we were performers, performance artists, playwrights, dancers or poets for example, and try to figure out a way of working and creating together in a unique and hopefully interesting way.


In Rehearsal and Creation: Michael Reinhart and Kanika Ambrose

HS: This is the second session that you are meeting and creating since your first session where you initially met one another and began working together. What are some of the benefits you’ve discovered that comes with working as a group of 8-13 artists of various artistic backgrounds?

MS: Material gets generated very quickly. We go from concept to product very quickly. Because there is so much man/woman-power and being a group of individuals with access to a variety of strengths and materials, whether it’s creative material or physical prop or set material, we benefit from the diversity of our artistic backgrounds.

MR: Things can also move slower because we have so many bodies, in terms of decision making, however the benefit to working in the way that we do with the artists that we do, is that we’re working in more of a layering fashion rather than from a linear, traditional narrative perspective. We develop ideology, concept and discipline on top of each other so it makes kind of a tapestry rather than something more traditionally linear. It’s been quite interesting to explore working in that way. You have to compromise or else the work doesn’t happen but with everyone being dedicated to the work, with this group of artists, you can develop some extraordinary things.


From left: Michael Reinhart, Karen Hawes, Kanika Ambrose

HS: Tell me a bit about the structure of your developing working model.

MR: We’ll we require a lot of time working together because we really are starting from scratch, trying things out. We’re still in a very early stage of working as a group, even though we’ve done it off and on for almost a year, it’s still quite early, and we’re still trying to figure out an exact working model that we can call our own, being a unique set-up of artists.

I’m really interested in System’s Theory, which is another story all together (he laughs), but the idea of disparate elements working where links of communication are made and are strengthened over time and so by working and working and working, even when things like concept or narrative are not completely clear, by the act of building, all of a sudden a narrative or a theme or a concept emerges. For example, an apartment building starts off as a hole in the ground and a bunch of pieces of metal and then by work and time, all of a sudden an apartment building emerges out of all of that effort, instruction, architechture and ideas. I think we work in a similar way, albeit we work in something ephemeral like theatre. We develop a couple of parameters or start with the spark of an idea and we take some stabs at it. From that, a critique is made or another image is presented and then we work with that in relation to the first idea. We add another and another and then over time and work, all of a sudden something builds and eventually something emerges which could be a concept or as on Friday, it could be a show!

HS: Tell me about A Wake for Lost Time.

MR: A Wake for Lost Time is a 24-hour ritual to time, for time and for the things that were lost in time. Largely it’s an expression. For example, as in a wake for the dead, you have a corpse in the room and you have people who are mourning and a party occurs eventually. People move the corpse, or push the corpse or deal with the corpse throughout the wake but there’s this party happening as well. What is that party? Well yes, it’s a party and yes, it’s a celebration of the person who died but not exactly because people are getting drunk and having sex in the other room and they are fighting and doing performances and all of it kind of has nothing to do with the person who died, exactly, but it has everything to do with death. Because what these people are doing is expressing their life and vitality face to face with death. They are creating, if only for a moment, a profound stalemate with death, which they know can’t last, but that’s what humanity does. Our death is rather at one end of time, you know? Time’s the container or the avenue, perhaps, and death is at the end of it… or at least that’s one way to think of it. What we’re doing is we’re bringing time here, using that kind of ritual event. We’re not just representing it but we’re physically letting it be real by having it act on us as performers and the performance itself for 24 hours.


Michael Reinhart

MS: I think one aspect that I’m excited about with this show is that it’s going to recur in two hour cycles but there are parts in each cycle that once they’ve been performed, physically they will impede future performance. Things will stay on stage, take up space and the subsequent cycle will try to be redone as faithfully and as intensely as possible but there will be the residue of the previous time it was done and then the time before that and so on. Also, not only will you have the residue of the prior cycles building up, but at the same time, we’re going to be up all night and either degrading or getting better as the hours accumulate. One of the main tensions I see is going to be with the physical space and how we’re going to work with or around it.

HS: If you could entice someone to see A Wake For Lost Time in 5-10 words, what would they be?

MR: That’s tough… You get to participate in something trying not to break…

MS: Oh god… give me a second.

MR: They get to experience time. There are many ways in which, we think, people don’t really experience time as much any more. It just slips by. One of our invitations for this is “For a little while, maybe try to get it back for a bit with us”.

MS: I’ve got it. Fishes, Norad, feast, string theory.

HS: Intriguing! Last question, if you could recommend a song to listen to before coming to see the show, what would it be?

MS: Tom Waits – Time

MR: The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars.

A Wake For Lost Time

by the Elephants in the Room collective


What: A 24-hour performance experiment that explores how time passes through bodies. It’s a disquieting party, an ardent ritual and an ode to what’s happening and what’s to come. This interdisciplinary theatre collective combines performance art, poetry, classical and post-dramatic theatre to create a show where the typical patterns break, clocks are flung aside and time, steady and relentless, conquers and is conquered by the stage debut from the Elephants in the Room collective.

The Collective: Kanika Ambrose, Donna Marie Baratta, Kathleen Goodleaf, Jenna Harris, Karen Hawes, Thomas McKechnie, Michael Reinhart, Tanya Rintoul, Moez Surani

Stage Managed by Kristina Abbondanza

Performance Times:
‘A Wake for Lost Time’ is a one-time only 24-hour performance experiment. To attend, audiences can purchase tickets to any number of the three public performance periods within the ritual (scheduled at the beginning, middle and end of the 24 hours)

People can leave at any time during the ritual, but there will be only one scheduled intermission (and time for re-entry into the space) which will occur during the halfway point of a given public performance.

Friday January 10th 2014: 7:30pm -10:45pm ($10.00)
Saturday January 11th 2014: 11:30am -1:45pm (PWYC)
Saturday January 11th 2014: 3:30pm -7:30pm ($10.00)

‘A Wake for Lost Time’ will include a live stream of the entire 24-Hour performance. The streaming will begin on January 10th at 7:30pm.
Please click the link below for more information and to watch the performance: