November 20 to November 30
Dancers Studio West
Prior to our interview, Sage Theatre founder and artistic director Rob Moffatt had just returned from a time management class. One worries about companies with overrun directors, but Moffatt insists hes delegating responsibilities for Sages upcoming season, its fifth.
And with good reason: fresh on the heels of last seasons Stuck, the company has scored a new home at Dancers Studio West, settled into a new office, and is now polishing a long-term business plan to meet future demands. Most importantly, Sage has spruced up its budget and programming, with some ambitious new material this year that, frankly, should have us dancing in the aisles.
They begin with this weeks Solo Celebration, a double-bill of one-man shows beginning with Michael Healeys kick-ass Kicked.
"We are trying to boost the quality of storyline this season and create some sophistication for the audience," says Moffatt. "There is a kernel of truth and humanity in all of the plays, and they ask the audience to take a bigger leap than usual."
The award-winning Kicked was first performed in Calgary during 2000s High Performance Rodeo. Moffatt first read it as dramaturge at Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP), just prior to the release of Healeys other success, The Drawer Boy. Kicked is described as a harrowing play dealing with child abduction, told from the viewpoint of a bus driver, a shoe salesman, a policeman, a doctor and a childlike voice from the afterlife. Its timeliness is, as Moffatt puts it, "ripped from the headlines."
"Its fiercely intelligent and cathartic, and it has some fundamental truths. It also gives a lot of credence to the power that men can play in these situations, and there is real coming together of the community here".
Moffatt wanted an equally strong companion for Kicked, and the result is the Canadian premiere of John OKeefes Shimmer, a first-person narrative exploring one mans childhood experiences, including an escape from Midwest residential institution. Despite their differences for one thing, Kicked is Canadian and Shimmer is American Moffatt is keen on the common thread they share.
"They both emit a powerful sense of possibility, redemption and liberation. They also ask us, how do we care for our children? What experiences of our children cross a certain threshold, and how do we grow from tragedy?"
The rest of Sages season is equally interesting. Childlike illusion becomes reality in the companys spring offering, Lord of the Flies. First produced by the Shaw Festival, Sage will create the second Canadian production ever of William Goldings English-student classic (and headache for some), with a cast of about 13 grown men acting as (and like) children. Golding saw the first production just before his death, and although the piece wasnt intended for North American soil, the play stays faithful to the novel and all its rampant symbolism.
"All the plays question how we live and how society cares for us as wanting citizens whether or not its children as savages, or adults as children," says Moffatt. "Lord of the Flies argues for democracy and parliamentarianism, but our running theme this year is how we triumph over institutionalization and injustice, and create our own civil society, based on our own moral universe and compassion."
Local director Kevin McKendrick (who directed Robert Lepages Polygraph for Sage) is at the helm, while Moffatt directs both the Solo Celebration and the seasons final brew, Songs From the Burning Man, a musical road trip to Utopia. Moffatt and singer-songwriter Kris Demeanor are creating the piece from scratch.
"Songs of the Burning Man examines the matrix around us. Weve already started workshops, and were keeping the spirit of experimenting, with a really full and diverse soundscape. I think it will be a bizarre telling of a human story, mixed with some humour and theatricality."
Moffatt adds that Sage is Dancers Studio Wests first resident theatre company, and is looking forward to a bright future in the versatile space. Prior to this season, Sage performed in venues like the Big Secret Theatre and the alternative Biograph Theatre at the Bridgeland Community Centre.
But the new venue is only part and parcel of a make-it-or-break-it year for the company, and Moffatt is well aware of whats ahead: a little parsley, a lot of Sage, a little rosemary, and a lot of time.
"The company is now demanding my sole attention. Im trying to squeeze the most out of every day. Its come a long way in terms of its overall business work. Were collaborating a lot more, and were still taking risks being alternative theatre is still a virtue."