It’s been three years since Maple Salsa last presented a show in Calgary — Neruda Nude, a tribute to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. Now, they’re back. Well, sort of.
The company has a new name — 8ROJO — and an altered mandate, but the artistic team remains the same. Javier Vilalta, 8ROJO’s artistic director, says the core group behind Maple Salsa wanted to continue presenting poetic, imagistic shows, but also wanted to introduce an interactive component.
This interactive aspect, says Vilalta, means the audience will be made to feel a part of the show “within a first–person immersive context.”
“The audience is not only there to watch, but to be part of the situation,” he explains.
The name 8ROJO translates from Spanish into “Red Eight,” which Vilalta says is a nod to Maple Salsa, because salsa is often red and the colour has the “connotation of passion and excitement.”
8ROJO’s inaugural show, Gretchen’s Nightmare, is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. Vilalta says that Gretchen — who also appears in Goethe’s work — is an “innocent victim,” whose purity is laid siege by both Faust and the Devil.
He says a number of works have been written exploring Gretchen’s character, pointing to the film Rosemary’s Baby as one such interpretation.
“We try to find a balance between the poetry and the imagery and the movement. The adaptation we came up with is a poetic interpretation,” says Vilalta.
Unlike a traditional production, audiences for Gretchen’s Nightmare don’t sit down to watch the show unfold in front of them. Instead, they walk from room to room, following the story throughout the historic Lantern Church, built in 1912.
“All the rooms in the church are used for the performance, so the audience gets to learn more about this historic landmark,” says Vilalta. 8ROJO further maximizes the setting by framing Gretchen’s story in the context of a nightmare she is having that takes place within a church.
“You may also be asked to do a few things to move the plot along. You need to be willing to participate,” Vilalta warns.
Because of the show’s format, only six people are permitted per show, but 8ROJO will be running four to six shows per night.
“If people gather a group of six, they can walk through their own personal nightmare,” says Vilalta, suggesting a night out with 8ROJO might be a more cultural way to celebrate Halloween than the usual party fare.