I got to Arts Court Theatre around noon on Friday and the studio was bustling with activity. My second day at the Fresh Meat Weekend Inventive experimenting with some embedded criticism and I was delighted to see both companies, Bad Hats Theatre Co. and Karina Milech and Patrick Kelly, up on their feet working through their pieces. The companies are given just over 15 hours in the actual performance space, and with one day already down, the companies only have a short time left before the final performances go up Saturday at 8pm.

The rehearsal is noticeably different from Thursday where there seemed to be more table work and discussion with the companies focusing on individual moments and movements. Today, both companies are focused on creating their unified vision on stage. There is more emphasis on transitions, beginnings and endings, and going through more lengthy runs of the piece. I had mentioned in Thursday’s article that I would be most interested to see the progress that these two companies make in a span of 24 hours. From the looks of it, both companies are using the strong momentum found from yesterday’s rehearsal to continue moving forward on their respective creative paths.

The ladies of Bad Hats Theatre Co. (Megan Carty, Nicola Atkinson, and Fiona Sauder) were working in a circle around their texts focusing on incorporating the text with their movements precisely. Repetition in the text becomes reflected in the choreography. Rhythm and nuance are tightened up and line memorization begins to set in. Carty and Atkinson have now stepped back to act as outside eyes on Sauder’s performance, allowing the company to help impose structure and unity over the piece.

Working very much like a dance company, the three choose to work physically through any problematic moments, adjusting things like speed, intensity, and space with defined editing gazes. A moment I particularly enjoyed watching the company work through was their work with incorporating a hula hoop into the performance. The hula hoop underlines the cyclical and rhyming nature of the text in that moment. The words think, sink, sick, thick (also thinking, sinking, sickening, thickening) are repeated as the hula hoop spins around Sauder’s waist. To take the image even further, by Sauder being in the hoop she is suggesting her own trapped nature within this seemingly vicious cycle.

Some difficulties arose in trying to get the hula hoop into Sauder’s hands from being rolled off stage.  Risky, for sure, as if the roll is not perfect it potentially ruins the moment; however this is a risk this company is willing to take. The company than discussed how much hula-ing, if you will, they want to incorporate. Carty votes for keeping it simple, saying that she “likes that it isn’t about the hula hoop right now.” When Sauder says she is not 100% sold on the hoop as of yet, they repeatedly work through the whole moment and choreography until it works for their collective purposes.  The three meet in the middle of their circle and high-five in agreement. I found myself grinning widely.

Checking in on dynamic duo Karina Milech and Patrick Kelly, the two were in a similar place running their piece as a whole in its proper space in the Studio lobby. Milech and Kelly possess a really nice sense of play and are very generous with one another as they act out possible scenarios and blocking. Being a piece that has a mild dose of audience participation, they work on trying to anticipate audience behaviour (“Either some people are going to raise their hands or no one is”).

Using festival producer (and rehearsal facilitator) Tony Adams as a resource, they incorporate him as a test subject, if you will, and then explore his experience as an “audience member” on stage. A good idea on Milech and Kelly’s part as Adam’s has a wealth of experience with audience involvement in his own work with May Can Theatre. The three bounce ideas off each other, talking about how the audience member’s experience on stage could be heightened and Adam’s notes that while it is “scary on stage” he’s not there for long- something I wouldn’t anticipate as being too much of an issue when the audience on Saturday night (I’m assuming) will be chalk full of avid theatregoers.

What struck me most, however, about Milech and Kelly’s process came from a small discussion I had with Kelly just as rehearsal was wrapping up for the day. “We’re totally script people, Karina and I”, Kelly reveals to me and even further their shared anxiety about having completely devised their piece sans script. Honestly, from watching them work I never would have guessed this was the case as they work so naturally on their feet and seem to really benefit from just improv and playing around.

At one point, Adam’s tells them to never write down a particular story Kelly tells the audience at one point during the show suggesting that the magic of the story comes from its sense of honesty. Scripting this story, as it were, would completely take away from that. I think this is a good metaphor for their piece in general- it’s about their journey as people and so it needs to feel like it comes from the heart and not a text.

Friday’s rehearsal ended with both companies being able to get through full runs of their pieces allowing me a real look at a final product. Granted, the companies still have a full day of rehearsals on Saturday before the grand finale so a lot can still change, but I think both companies passed a threshold today and know almost exactly what they are going to show the audience. The artists now move into a phase where they can tighten, polish, mould, and perfect. In trying (and failing) to come up with some clever or profound clinching statement or metaphor, all I could come up with is this thought: it seems as though the Weekend Inventive isn’t about setting things in stone, but rather allowing the artists to create in plasticine.

Seriously, come check out this event.  After all, the audience is arguably the most necessary part of the creative process (and, hey, the beer is cheap!).

Written by Brianna McFarlane