Crockpot project explores theatre program stigmas

Students, graduates produce play in 48 hours

By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer

At Rumble Theatre’s 48-Hour Crockpot event, six students from six different post-secondary institutions came together on March 21-23 to create a theatre piece in 48 hours and explore the connections and differences between Vancouver’s post-secondary theatre training programs. I was lucky enough to represent Douglas College in this project that fostered some discoveries and discussions that every department head of theatre in a local college or university should hear.

I met students and recent graduates Julie Casselman (Trinity Western), Deneh Thompson (SFU), Patrick Mercado (Langara College’s Studio 58), Julian Legere (Capilano University), and Alen Dominguez (UBC). We were expected to devise a play in two days where we would portray complete strangers collaborating on a theatre piece for 48 hours. The only parameters of the challenge were that the finished piece was to be no longer than 20 minutes, it must address the question, “How did you get here today?” and we could only spend the $50 given to us as a collective.

We were asked to not prepare anything and simply bring ourselves—a task that was much more exciting than daunting and which left me far more sentimental than I had anticipated.

On Friday, we began discussing the different stigmas associated with our institutions, such as which institution was academic or artsy and which programs were better or worse. Not taking any of this personally, we moved on to discuss where these stigmas were perpetuated and if they bore any truth.

On Saturday, we shared the seeds of what would become our 20-minute piece. We each shared our answers to the question, “How did you get here today?” As we spoke, we brought up themes that would prevail throughout our finished product.

We were visited by theatre professionals over the course of the three days, including actors Bob Frazer, Dawn Petten, Alessandro Juliani, Dave Deveau, and Cameron Mackenzie, who gave us advice and answered any questions we had about the business.

On Sunday, we finalized the piece we were to show that night at 8 p.m. We spent our $50 on muslin and draped it over the scaffolding in the space, which would form most of our set. We lit the space ourselves with lamps found around the building, offering a certain unique aesthetic to the piece.

The piece held themes of identity, of our pasts, our present, and our anticipations for the future as performers. However, it was only a manifestation of the many discussions its production generated.

With an audience made up primarily of theatre students, the post-show conversation included an open discussion of stigmas, and of students’ desires and complaints. While the stigmas and minor perceived rivalries between theatre schools are juvenile, they do exist and may have an impact on students as they move into the working world of artists.

When Frazer came to visit us in the workroom, he said that every student is trapped in their training when they first leave school, but they must break out of it to find themselves and their own methods. The consensus was that once you left school, the only thing that mattered was that you had been to school.

I was grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with other artists during the 48-Hour Crockpot and to discover that we had more similarities than differences. It was the most vibrant gathering of emerging artists I had seen in a while.