Burn­ing Man ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vides fuel for one-woman show

One-woman play pre­mieres at un­der­cur­rents fes­ti­val

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - LYNN SAXBERG

On a whim a few years ago, Ot­tawa’s No­rah Pa­ton tried to get a ticket to Burn­ing Man, the an­nual gath­er­ing in the Ne­vada desert where gog­gles and a ban­dana are must-haves to ward off the sand storms.

The tick­ets weren’t cheap — around $400 US — and quan­ti­ties were lim­ited. And you had to be quick be­cause so many peo­ple were try­ing to snap them up on­line at the same time.

To her sur­prise, the Con­cor­dia the­atre grad was suc­cess­ful. In 2014, off she went to ex­pe­ri­ence the tem­po­rary com­mu­nity of artists, hip­pies, ravers and freaks for the first time. She came home from Black Rock City in need of a shower, but also with an idea for a play.

Af­ter twice more mak­ing the jour­ney, the 25-year-old writer­per­former is ready to don her pro­tec­tive gear in front of an au­di­ence. Her one-woman show, Burnt, pre­mieres at the un­der­cur­rents fes­ti­val of con­tem­po­rary the­atre, which runs Feb. 8-11 at Arts Court.

“My premise is, ‘What is Burn­ing Man all about? ’ ” Pa­ton says, be­fore of­fer­ing a par­tial an­swer.

“It’s ev­ery­thing un­der the sun. What you think about with it is drugs and sex and elec­tronic mu­sic, and there’s all of that, ab­so­lutely. There’s also in­sane fire con­trap­tions and a lot of in­ter­ac­tive art in­stal­la­tions.”

While there’s no sex or drugs on­stage, her piece is based on tran­scripts of in­ter­views she con­ducted at the event. It’s also in­formed by the 10 guid­ing prin­ci­ples of Burn­ing Man, which in­clude rad­i­cal self-re­liance, com­mu­nal ef­fort and de-com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

“Some of them are to­tally con­tra­dic­tory, and I def­i­nitely do look at those para­doxes,” Pa­ton says. That’s the most in­ter­est­ing thing to me. I’m not nec­es­sar­ily look­ing at it as this amaz­ing, out-there ex­pe­ri­ence where you have all of th­ese crazy ad­ven­tures, and do all

It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing to look at how this tem­po­rary city be­comes a mi­cro­cosm of all of the is­sues or ten­sions or prob­lems that we see in all of our lives.

of th­ese things you’d never imag­ine that you’d do.

“For me, it’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing to look at how this tem­po­rary city be­comes a mi­cro­cosm of all of the is­sues or ten­sions or prob­lems that we see in all of our lives. If it’s only in­ter­est­ing to those who have gone or want to go, it’s not that in­ter­est­ing. There’s got to be some­thing that speaks to us in Ot­tawa in 2017 in Fe­bru­ary.”

Un­der­cur­rents artis­tic di­rec­tor Pa­trick Gau­thier never felt the urge to make the pil­grim­age to Burn­ing Man. But he was in­trigued by the idea, and had heard good things about an early read­ing of Pa­ton’s play.

“Process-wise, it was fas­ci­nat­ing,” he said. “The­atre is so messy and waste­ful. How is she go­ing to make a play and not leave any trace, and how is she go­ing to rad­i­cally in­clude peo­ple in a solo show? So we funded it. I have no in­ter­est in go­ing to Burn­ing Man, but I wanted to help her make this play be­cause I want to see it.”

Gau­thier is also the di­rec­tor of the Ot­tawa Fringe Fes­ti­val, which is set for June 8-18 this year. Un­like the Fringe, with its per­for­mances se­lected by lot­tery, un­der­cur­rents is cu­rated by Gau­thier, who likes to see emerg­ing artists, es­pe­cially those in the Ot­tawa the­atre com­mu­nity, take risks. He de­scribes Pa­ton as “fear­less” for her will­ing­ness to chal­lenge her­self.

Pa­ton’s play is one of two world pre­mieres by Ot­tawa-area artists in­cluded in the sev­enth an­nual edi­tion of un­der­cur­rents. This year’s sched­ule in­cludes eight works, plus Feb. 14’s New Play Tues­day, which is a night of staged read­ings of works in progress. For more in­for­ma­tion on tick­ets and times, go to un­der­cur­rents­fes­ti­val.ca [email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/ lynnsaxberg

JEAN LEVAC

Lo­cal per­former No­rah Pa­ton, shown her with un­der­cur­rents artis­tic di­rec­tor Pa­trick Gau­thier, will pre­miere her one-woman show Burnt at the fes­ti­val on Thurs­day.

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