Three days, two continents and a big dose of uncertainty
MORE BACKGROUND ON THE TROUPE AT THESTAR.COM/STAGE Michael Torontow and Glynis Ranney in the unnamed musical presented by Talk Is Free Theatre as part of The Curious Voyage that travels to London, England. A theatre production that spans three days and two continents: you can’t deny it grabs the attention.
That’s exactly the gambit behind The Curious Voyage, a project that sees audience members spend up to $2,000 (before flights and meals) to journey between Barrie, Ont., and London, England, for a series of one-on-one and group experiences leading up to a fully staged, site-specific musical theatre production.
The project’s outsized ambition is in the interest of generating hype that will raise the profile of Canadian theatre artists and provide opportunities for them to undertake “gravity-less risk,” says its mastermind, Arkady Spivak, artistic director of Barrie’s Talk Is Free Theatre. While the project has enjoyed undeniable success, it also hit snags along the way, evidence that abundant risk-taking with human subjects requires equally abundant earthbound care.
The $650,000 production budget is drawn almost entirely
from government grants, and private and corporate fundraising; only 4 per cent comes from ticket sales.
Talk Is Free has used sitespecific formats before — its production of The Music Man was set in multiple Barrie locations — but Spivak didn’t find these fully satisfying.
“You’re welcoming an audience in a non-traditional setting, but you are treating them traditionally” — performers in The Music Man pretended not to see audience members even though they were inches away. The next step was “take an audience and make them the centre, or at least (engage with them) without a boundary,” says Spivak.
Two Toronto artistic directors created the show with Spivak — Daniele Bartolini of DLT built the immersive content, while Outside the March’s Mitchell Cushman directed the musical — and it was at their urging that the musical’s title has been kept secret: “It’s this whole idea that you access the work through a different mental state” if you don’t know what you’re seeing in advance, says Spivak.