The last day of rehearsal was upon us. Walking into the Studio Lobby at Arts Court Theatre Saturday morning the tension in the room was palpable. Both companies (Bad Hats Theatre Co. and Karina Milech and Patrick Kelly) are in the final stages of creating their original pieces for the Fresh Meat Weekend Inventive. With only a mere eight hours until showtime, I decided to sit down briefly with both companies to get their perspective on this experience in their own words.

Bad Hats Theatre Co. originated on the scene in Ottawa as a collective of emerging artists “invested in creating original work that features a multi-disciplinary approach to storytelling and performance”. Company members Megan Carty, Nicola Atkinson, and Fiona Sauder work toward developing work that incorporates a fusion of physical vocabulary, text, and music. Their piece, tentatively titled The Gold Project, is a kaleidoscope of images, historical facts, and feelings associated with this most precious metal.

Karina Milech and Patrick Kelly are independent actors in their own respective rights, teaming up one fall they drive across Canada, hitting all the major cities, trying to audition for as many professional theatre companies  that will see them. Pushing the boundaries of perhaps what is appropriate behaviour for an actor trying to make it on the main stages, their show Patrick and Karina Cross Canada speaks to the sheer persistence of performers trying to make a living in the theatre arts.

Explain your creative process in your own words.

Patrick Kelly: It started with a bunch of improv and we found that it didn’t work out as well as we had hoped. We found that it was akward to improv story that had already happened. So, we sat down and wrote out a basic script.

Karina Milech: We didn’t sit down and memorize lines, really, well…with some exceptions. We were just paraphrasing what we wrote. What struck me most though, was that we ended up sticking to the three stories we originally chose, but we tell them a lot differently than how we thought we were going to tell them.

Fiona Sauder:  Naturally the way we work as a collective had to shift because of the deadline. We worked within our mandate though and we really flourished as a collective because everyone wore different hats. We realized very quickly that we had to produce 20 minutes of good work very fast.

Megan Carty: The “impossible” deadline never added stress- it was motivation.

Why is the Weekend Inventive a benefit to the independent theatre companies in Ottawa and the surrounding area?

PK: I think because you become so wrapped up in your own life it’s hard to find three straight days where you can get together and work.

KM: Also because we live in two different cities. We spent so much time together on the trip that we thought that after we were going to create all this work together, but we didn’t. Pat’s in school and I work, so it’s hard.

Nicola Atkinson: It can only be a good thing. What they gave us was time, space, and someone saying yes- someone who believed in us enough to give us rehearsal space for free. When you’re used to rehearsing in your living room…it’s validating.

FS: And to back that yes up with a tangible contribution- it’s confidence and content boosting. It was nice to finally get to play together.

MC: We already knew that we worked well together and the Weekend Inventive really confirmed that hypothesis.

Paul Griffon: It also gives a sense of credibility. We put something out in the world, we are something now.

What did you guys as artists and theatre creators take away from the WI?

KM: Patrick and I have been in shows together, but we’ve never actually created anything together. I think the Weekend Inventive showed us that we can work together and the plan is to create together more in the future.

PK: I think we realized too that we kind of jumped into this process when we needed to do more table work before. We didn’t plan a structure- we kind of ran into things fresh and just tried things. I think we needed to sit down and discuss what we wanted to get across before all of that.

MC: The constant switching of hats within minutes during rehearsals was really important in this process.

NA: The moments where we have to wear different hats while contributing to this one piece, meant that you did what you were strong at while also getting to explore other things.

What was it like having a critic in the rehearsal room? Did it help or hinder the process at all? Make any impact?

KM: Honestly, we didn’t even know you were coming until the day before and then I called Patrick [laughs]. I got nervous because it’s scary having someone critique the creative process when we didn’t know what was going to happen. It made me trepidatious. Within ten minutes of you being there though, it was like you weren’t even there…it was easy to tune you out.

PK: It didn’t help or hinder it just was what it was.

KM: After reading your first piece I was relieved. I thought it was going to be more judgemental. And then after having a really creative day yesterday, we were excited for you to publish your next piece.

PK: ‘Cause that’s what’s hard about the process: when you’re in it you don’t know what it reads like to the audience.

FS: I don’t think it hindered anything, but I thought it was odd. We’re very focused in on each other so we didn’t really notice, I don’t think there was a negative impact in that way.

NA: It was odd. I assumed that you were going to be more “embedded” in our process by asking us questions rather than just being a fly on the wall.

MC: It was definitely interesting to see the difference between what is happening on the inside of the work and what the process looks like from the outside. For example, in one of your pieces you used the word “struggle” to describe a bit we were working through. It’s interesting because it doesn’t feel like struggle to us, so there’s a line between inside and outside being played with.

I highly recommend coming out to see the shows tonight for a number of reasons. It’s not only going to be a fun party, but it’s giving you the opportunity to see the new work that is emerging from within our own community here in Ottawa. Even more than that the Weekend Inventive is inviting you, the audience, to respond directly to these pieces via a talk-back as well as a “First Impression” survey allowing you as a spectator to critically respond to brand new original pieces in an early stage of development. Where else in Ottawa do you as an audience member have this much input into a creative project? Come for the theatre, stay for the discussion (and obviously the beer) tonight at 8pm.

Written by Brianna McFarlane