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The Birth of Dorian


Last night was the first meeting for Dorian. This  November 15th concert, will be different from any of suddenlyLISTEN’s projects to date, and we’re pretty excited about how it will turn out!

There were a couple of ideas that started it all. One was a question I have struggled with for years: How can suddenlyLISTEN find new audience members? Our work is not easy listening; it’s not entertainment that draws large audiences historically, anywhere in the world. But for us to grow, even incrementally, we need to lure new people through our doors. How can we do this while not compromising our work?  Good question.

The answer I came up with seems simple, but posed new questions: Collaborate with artists from different art forms. Okay, which one? In our 10 years of concert collaborations suddenlyLISTEN has worked with musicians, a poet, a video artist, and dancers. That leaves (amongst others I’m sure) other forms of visual arts and theatre arts.

The second thought was that through this effort to build, I still wanted to work with great performers like Karen Bassett, and low and behold she’s an actor, and an improviser too!

So Karen and I hatched the idea to improvise narrative and music as equal partners: with words inspiring music and music instigating narrative line! Do you think it’s even possible? WE DON’T KNOW!

Now THAT is the kind of risk taking I like. Let’s get started!

Over the summer, Karen had spent time with Sabastien Labelle and Theo Pitsiavas thinking and playing, with the idea of doing a show for Irondale Ensemble Project based on The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Karen and I decided to cooperate and put on a show born from themes from Dorian Gray that is full of both improvisation, exploration and narrative. Our hope is that this will inform Irondale’s play development and I’m confident that it will give an audience a great night out.

It’s a juicy book filled with atmosphere, decadence, magic and lots of thought on art and society. And I think it’s ripe for music as well, as instigator and underscore. So I chose some of our region's most versatile musicians: violinist Gina Burgess, woodwind player David Christensen and my old friend Lukas Pearse on bass. I think that together the four of us can create music that explores not only the themes we decide to look into, but the idiom and style and how they set a mood and a place for dramatic action. And I think we can make music that is powerful that our listening actors will be sent in new narrative directions.

So at our first rehearsal we did a lot of talking. We talked about structure: how much, how rigid, and the importance of it. We talked about pictures: foreground, middle and background, frames, and views. We talked about time: timing, durations, and eras. Our next phase will be to try some experiments and start to sift out what is important, what is interesting, what might be a bore, and what is fun for us to perform! Then we pick our favourite ideas and make pieces out of them eventually grouping them to make a show.

Dorian is our first project with Irondale Ensemble Project, it's our first show with actors, and it's the first one with such a concrete thematic base. A lot of firsts: Only our work together, and time will tell how this will come out and what our audience will witness at Halifax’s Bus Stop Theatre on November 15. But I’m pretty confident it will be rich, expressive and interesting to listen to. Stay tuned!

Oct 20, 2011 at 10:14

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