Engine Productions’ fifth production, You Are Here, promises to be a slight break from the company’s usual eclectic approach to theatre. Though primarily based in theatre, the company describes themselves as “artist-run” and strives to incorporate a wide variety of performance styles and art disciplines into their productions. Past shows have features elements of dance, visual art, and videography.
Written by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, You Are Here centers around a vulnerable, independent, and unconventional woman named Allison as she searches for meaning in her life. The play focuses on themes of love, friendship, redemption, and hope as Allison comes face to face with characters from her past. Featuring Kimberley Drake, an alumni of Grenfell’s theatre program, as Allison and directed by Kevin Woolridge, the play also features performances by Shawn Parsons, Rob Kean, fellow Grenfell theatre alumni Laura Huckle, Ross Moore, Issa Russell, Michael Rhodri Smith, and Evan Mercer.
Jenn Brown, co-founder of Engine Productions and Producer of You Are Here, says that the company was founded when she, Drake, and Huckle found they weren’t able to act and direct as much as they wanted to after graduation because of financial restrictions.
“We decided that instead of feeling restricted, we would pull our mutual resources, skills, and experience and embrace a do-it-yourself mantra for our artwork. We also discovered that there are so many talented artists in this province who want to do the same, and we found our own way of creating art, practicing our craft, and most importantly, sharing stories” said Brown.
“There have been amazing decisions and creations by rehearsing in living rooms, performing in reclaimed art venues, or homes-turned-theatres,” Brown said, referring to the company’s previous productions which have been performed in unique spaces not usually set aside for theatre. You Are Here, by contrast, will be performed in a more typical theatre setting. “It’s a gift to work at the [Arts and Culture Centre] and the gang there is great, but we’re used to reclaiming venues. It is a nice experiment for the company.”
Engine Productions tries to keep their budgets low by being resourceful about the spaces and resources available to them; the larger theater setting allows for the larger cast that You Are Here requires.
“You Are Here focuses solely on the play and we have tried to keep the set design simple for the audience to focus on the story. Our next show will infuse more disciplines but it is important to focus on the words and the story for You Are Here,” said Huckle, noting that the production will not incorporate elements of dance or other art forms that have been featured in their other shows.
Though the play itself is pure theatre, the company has attempted to embrace other artistic disciplines in their marketing of the show. One of the actors, Ross Moore, has created a video trailer for You Are Here that is available online. The company is also furthering their unique approach to theatre by adopting a paperless program. Rather than the traditional, multipage program, audience members will receive a small slip of paper with the show’s basic information and a URL or QR code that can be scanned in order to view the actors’ and production team’s biographies and other information about the show.
Kevin Woolridge, who says he came to direct You Are Here “by chance” after a telephone conversation with Drake, has a deep admiration for Daniel MacIvor and hopes that the play resonates with audiences.
“[MacIvor] has a unique understanding of how people talk in the real world, with all its imperfections in speech, and is able to bring that to life in his dialogue. Coupled with a deep sense of human-ness and emotional sensitivity, it makes [him] one of our country’s most important contemporary playwrights” said Woolridge.
“We’ve assembled a tremendous cast of intelligent, creative and fearless actors, and I couldn’t have asked for any better. Every rehearsal has been a joy. The emotional situations in this play run the full gamut and without their strength it could have easily become muddled and messy.”
“Essentially she’s looking for the things all of us look for,” Woolridge added, referring to You Are Here’s protagonist. “And that’s what makes this play so accessible. It’s full of emotions that we have all felt at one time or another. I hope that our audiences use the show as a springboard for re-examination of their own lives and what is really important.”
Engine Productions’ “You Are Here” runs November 28- 30 at 8pm in the Barbara Barrett Theater. Tickets are $25 at the door and $20 in advance. There will also be $10 show at 2pm on November 30.