Once the Children Theatre Exchange was over I couldn’t get over it. I kept thinking that SOLO Theatre never left. Many people asked me if the week was worth all the time and energy but there is no hesitation when I say that, of course I loved it and I would fly to Atlanta in a heartbeat. I didn’t just spend a week of my life growing a second family just to let it go to waste. I think this week full of wonderful activities and people helped me grow as an actor, mainly because it reminded me how much importance theatre has in my life. There is no better way to rediscover theatre than with new life-long friends. During the week I found renewed energy and excitement and I believe the cause of this was that I was no longer one of the only senior students in my group. As a “veteran” at Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre, I have been the oldest student for quite some time now and it was refreshing to have some more kids that were my age join us in Ottawa to share our love for theatre.
My favourite activity of the week was definitely the bonfire. We had two bonfires and they marked the first and last time the two companies were together and each time held a lot of power and emotions. Personally, they were extra special because they are a tradition at OUK Theatre. Called “Candle Time”, it is a ritual where we all sit in a circle and light a candle. There is one main rule: you must open you heart and speak only the truth. “Candle Time”, in the past, has held lots of fond memories where I’ve been able to connect with people on a deeper level. Imagine sitting in a circle and having a truthful conversation, then add a candle or a bonfire, what is the outcome? Whimsy, magic and connection. More often than not we have burned through candles without noticing the time fly by. We shared this tradition with SOLO Theatre and in a sense we welcomed them into our family. A family of theatre enthusiasts and practitioners that share a passion that no one else can understand.
On the last day of the theatre exchange both groups led workshops for the other company. I think these workshops were very useful because it gave us the chance to act alongside new people. It was interesting to see a snapshot of what could happen at a rehearsal with another theatre company. I discovered new meaning behind colours and lines and I also learned more about the “behind-the-scenes” work that goes into a production. Sadly, we only had a few hours to share our knowledge. Maybe next time we could share workshops about stage combat, mime, or other genres of performance. Maybe even a small scene or atmosphere could be prepared and performed outside. The more opportunities for both theatres to collaborate the better, because we shared our shows for each other and now want a chance to make something together.
SOLO theatre performed “The Flying Ship” at Kailash Mital Theatre on June 5th as part of the Children’s Theatre Exchange. The play follows Ivan the chimney sweep as he tries to build a flying ship to save Princess Zabava from marrying whomever the Tsar chooses. As this is a Russian folk tale, the style of the show portrays this very well through sets and costumes, from the Princess’ crown to Baba Yaga’s mortar. All the costumes have lots of detail and encompass the characters nicely. The versatile set is made up of huge curtain-like banners with different images on either side creating the possibility for multiple settings. The set is transformed from the palace to forest to flying ship. Not only is the set amazing but so are the stage props. My personal favourite is the frying pan, not only because it is used in a cliché, comic fashion but also in its clever use as a divider between Princess Zabava and Ivan.
I found the dynamic between the girls at the palace very interesting because each of their individual actions depend on the other girl’s and they work together wonderfully while still keeping distinct, separate personalities. All the actors work well together and keep high energy and rhythm throughout the show, although the ending feels odd. The audience didn’t seem sure if it was over or not because there is an awkward pause between the end of everyone’s lines and the beginning of the final song. Other than that the show is seamless, even with a few microphone mishaps, and the smooth transitions create an amazing atmosphere and entertaining performance.
Simply put, the children’s theatre exchange was an amazing opportunity. I learned so much about the kids from SOLO theatre. I got to share my experiences as an actor and learn from them as well. I cherished every moment together because not one minute was spent in boredom. When you put people together that share a passion for theatre there is almost no way they won’t get along and want to create. This element that connected us brought us closer together in a week than would have ever happened on our own outside of this program. This might have been because I was hosting people at my house but I am sure that everyone else was affected in a similar way.
I think a reason for this connection we hold is not only because we share a love for theatre but because we also share the Russian culture. In Ottawa when the time comes to invite people to our performances I hesitate to invite the majority of my friends because of the language barrier, but with SOLO theatre we share a second language and it made the week that much more special. Along with our shared language I think there is something really eccentric about the fact that they are from the United States. When I imagine a theatre group from Canada coming it doesn’t inspire as much whimsy as “foreigners” from another country because there is so much more land that separates us but we still came together to share this amazing opportunity.
The only downfall of this project was the timing. The theatre exchange was planned for the first week of June which incidentally was also the second last week of my school. That meant that I missed out on the whole day’s worth of quality time with SOLO theatre. If only I didn’t have school to worry about, the experience would have been more amazing than it already was. This once in a lifetime experience ended too fast and I need to go visit them ASAP. My new birthday wish, is a ticket to Atlanta. The best way to describe this experience in one sentence is with a quote from the hit Broadway musical, Wicked, “And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.”