The Stage Becomes a Laboratory

Concordia Students Provide Annual Dose of Theatre with Short Works Theatre Festival/SIPA

graphic by Sam Jones.

From Nov. 6 to Nov. 9, the Cazalet Theatre at the Loyola Campus will be enveloped in a dramatic frenzy. Five student groups from Concordia’s theatre program will be putting on a weekend’s worth of shows interspersed with interactive gatherings and art installations.

“There’s something really cool about the atmosphere of this festival,” said Peter Shaw, co-director of the play Oyster. “Everybody kind of comes together for the weekend and we’re all in this basement space at Loyola. It’s very much driven by the students.”

The Short Works Theatre Festival is a product of the Student Initiative Performance Assignment, a class in Concordia’s theatre department that includes an exchange with the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. Each of these student-crafted plays run under an hour and this year five plays will be showcased.

The plays cover topics ranging from gender and societal expectations to fame, relationships and loneliness. Cockroaches, written and directed by Dimitri Kyres, is an exploration of fame and violence and how these themes often go hand in hand. Julie Foster’s Hide Fox is a dark absurdist comedy about murder, madness and method acting. Four Storey Suite, a collective creation by Veronica Baron, Jonathan Mac Donald, Cooper McGinnis and Alexandra Petrachuk, tells the story of four young adults living in an apartment complex.

The Short Works Theatre Festival/SIPA gives theatre students a chance to experiment and take risks that might be discouraged in a traditional theatre setting.

Shaw’s Oyster, written and co-directed by Alicia Segura, tests the boundaries between performers and the audience. It’s an experimental play that explores themes of femininity, love, self-esteem and loneliness.

“For about four weeks now we’ve had a presence on YouTube as well as Tumblr,” said Shaw. “We’re still kind of exploring how that fits into the show and how the audience perceives it. It really is this experimental ground for students.”

For the students themselves the festival is the culmination of months of hard work, from the initial script-writing to the set design to publicity.

Simon Banderob collaborated with students from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg to explore gender in the play In[bodied].

“People always expect something strange and weird to come out of the Germany exchange and we hope to hold that up,” said Banderob over the shouts emanating from the rehearsal space nearby.

[In]bodied is divided into three acts. The first and most representational act is about gender as spectacle, while the second is about the deconstruction of that spectacle. “In the third act we try and see if it’s possible to have a human exist beyond gender, or without gender,” said Banderob. “We really do want people to talk about it, and to wonder.”

Running in conjunction with the SIPA-produced plays is OffSIPA, the component of the Short Works Festival not connected to the Concordia class. OffSIPA will showcase Manouchka Elinor’s one-woman play Post-Mortem and a large-scale multimedia art installation, curated by Tyson Houseman, called Laniakea.

For the broader Concordia community the festival is a chance to witness some unique, innovative and affordable theatre, as well as to interact with playwrights, directors and actors.

“It’s a great way to see a lot of different theatre for really cheap,” said actor Katie Keca. “If you need a dose of theatre, that’s the place to do it.”

“It’s this really great way to see what students are doing in theatre, this big expression in the Concordia fine arts community,” said Shaw. “It’ll be a grand old time.”