Hey all. It’s been a while since I last blogged about the goings on at Studio Porte Bleue and thought I’d take the opportunity to think through and share some of the early stages of our next project for November currently under the working title: The Stories We Tell Ourselves. We’ve had some twists and turns already in the process and we’re now at a very exciting point where we actually can see how the show will be structured and what kind of shape it will take on.
As with any project, I always start with thinking about a cool structure, a theme and most important finding people I think will work well together and be interesting to create with. This time around, I became more and more obsessed with the idea of creating a choose your own adventure, radio-show-inspired piece, where actors would be at microphones and the audience would choose what happens next at intervals throughout the show. I was also lucky to surround myself with the incredibly talented Erin Lindsay and Jessica Rose as well as in the beginning to have the insight of the wickedly smart Chris Masson. This blog is very “what I did” heavy since it’s from my perspective and on the thought process I’ve gone through over the past few weeks, but the work of these collaborators has been of incredibly high calibre and we’d be drowning in ambiguity and bad prose right now without them.
In the beginning I pitched the idea to develop a post-apocalyptic piece where everything that occurred to the main character was absurdly terrible and kept getting worse, yet all the decisions that were chosen by the audience were not that of our central character but of everyone around him. I thought the show could be an absurd and darkly-comedic take on the free will/determinism dichotomy. However, over time it became quite clear that the scope was too big and we were unable to find our footing within the project. It lead to incredibly diverse styles, themes, and scenarios that seemed as though we may never come to grips on how to navigate the choose your own adventure structure. Beyond that, it became clear to me that it would be hard to have a consistent narrative devise for the audience to find a way in to the piece. This forced me to reconsider the entire theme and structure of the project.
Luckily I was forced to take some time away from writing and work on painting a friend’s house. While doing the repetitive work of painting my mind wandered and I started to think more and more about notions of memories. I kept coming back to the idea that with a choose your own adventure structure to a show we are, by the nature of the unique essence of each performance, exploring collective memory of the spectators and the artists on stage. We are both sharing an ephemeral moment together that lives only in the memory of each of us. Even the show’s narrative trajectory would be different from night to night.
This theoretical idea led me to consider how each of us also have differing memories of the same event. Think of the last time you had a disagreement or fight with a friend about what happened in an evening, inevitably our insecurities, anxieties, and personal histories flavour how we remember events and this can lead to incredibly divergent memories of the same night. You may feel as though you were wronged by the behaviour of your friend whilst they may feel the exact same way towards you. In reality the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. So I started to play around with the idea of two characters who’s memories of a vacation they had together were divergent in many ways.
I met with our team last Wednesday and we had a great meeting discussing these ideas and how we could create a choose your own adventure show based upon the notion of divergent memories. Through osmosis of collaboration we fell upon the idea that we could be creating a Momento-esque piece where the audience is figuring out what is true and false in the memories of this couple on a trip to Toronto (cue-the Canadiana concern conversation). Furthermore, there would be some kind of traumatic event at the centre of their story that both characters repress, ignore, and lie in their own ways about. Depending on the choices of what spectators believe and do not believe the narrative trajectory will swing to either of their perceptions of the events that occurred on the trip. In essence we will be delving into the world of memories and consciousness head-on.
So that’s where we currently stand, I’m super excited about where we’re at with this project and look forward to sharing more on the process as time goes on!