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Vancouver company Boca Del Lupo brings you the excitement of live theatre with short plays you can perform with friends and family
For the past year and a half, it’s been impossible to see live, in-person theatre. But what if theatre came to you in the form of a boxed set of short plays? And what if you got to perform those plays with whoever’s in your pandemic bubble?
That’s the clever concept behind Plays2Perform@Home from Vancouver-based company Boca Del Lupo, best known for their audience-to-audience performance piece Red Phone. Just as you can order in pizza to be divided among your bubbled family or friends, now you can order some plays and divide up the parts to be performed wherever you want: the living room, a deck, a park.
“Early on in the pandemic, a lot of people’s response was to put things online,” explains Jay Dodge, Boca’s artistic producer. “We could have done something like that – we’re a company that’s known for our technical integration. But that space was well covered. We wanted to find a way to do live theatre when we were all supposed to stay in our own bubbles.”
Performing arts companies remain among the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, says Sherry J. Yoon, Boca’s artistic director.
“Our business is essentially the opposite of social distancing,” she says. “And the message, even though it wasn’t intentional, has been that we don’t matter, that we’re far from essential. The doors were shuttered, and we were pushed straight out into the margins. But people need to reflect and heal, they need to be creative and see art to transform. The news reports the information, but it’s artists who make sense of things. So with this, we found something we could do.”
More than a year ago, they commissioned four well-known Western playwrights – Hiro Kanagawa, Tara Beagan, Karen Hines and Jovanni Sy – to write short plays for their first box. Each work had to be short (no longer than 10 minutes), feature between two to four characters and not rely on copious stage directions that might intimidate people unfamiliar with reading scripts.
The result was so successful that Boca, in partnership with theatre companies across the country, has released four new box sets representing various regions.
There’s the Prairie Box (in partnership with Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre and the Winnipeg’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre), featuring plays by Joseph Aragon, Yvette Nolan, Debbie Patterson and Curtis Peeteetuce; the Ontario Box (in partnership with Toronto’s Factory Theatre), with plays by Jeff Ho, Aaron Jan, Marina Moreira and Rachel Mutombo; the Quebec Box (in partnership with Montreal’s Centaur Theatre), with works by Marie Barlizo, Michaela Di Cesare, Gabe Maharjan and Adjani Poirier); and the Eastern Box (in partnership with Fredericton’s Theatre New Brunswick and Halifax’s Eastern Front Theatre), featuring plays by Marc-André Charron, Mary-Colin Chisholm, Jena Elizabeth McLean and Santiago Guzmán.
Meanwhile, the original box – now retitled the Western box – has gone into a second printing.
A few of the plays deal directly with the pandemic; Kanagawa’s Negotiations, for instance, concerns mask etiquette. But the range is as broad as the playwrights’ styles and backgrounds.
In Home Sweet Home, Ontario box playwright Rachel Mutombo deals with one of Toronto’s hottest topics: real estate. It grew out of her time working as a receptionist at a Toronto real estate law firm one summer.
“I loved the idea of people moving into their dream home,” says Mutombo, an actor (School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play) who’s taken part in writer development programs at Nightwood Theatre and Factory Theatre.
“They’ve spent their life savings on this townhouse they can’t afford. They’re at Yonge and Eglinton, you can see the park from their backyard. And when they finally move in it’s the home of their nightmares.”
Mutombo wondered about making the house itself a character. Would that be too much for audiences to act out? But Boca’s Yoon and Factory dramaturg Matt McGeachy encouraged her to go for it.
“I think people should just have fun doing it,” says Mutombo. “Don’t think too much about it. Go big or go home.”
Plays2Perform@Home audiences shouldn’t fret about props and casting.
“If a script asks to light a candle, don’t worry if you’re at a campsite or beach and don’t have one,” says Yoon. “I also don’t want people to open the box and say, ‘Oh, it’s for two men and two women, so we can’t do it.’ Just pass out the scripts [each one has a character’s name on it, with their lines highlighted] without looking at them.”
Dodge agrees, saying that it’s all part of the transformative nature of theatre.
“We’re inviting people to pretend and engage in an imaginative space,” he says. “Fall into these worlds and afterwards talk about them.”
“Yes,” chimes in Yoon. “After you finish a play, it’s not over. That’s really when the story begins. Talk about it, explore how it made you feel.”
Purchase any of the regional Plays2Perform@Home boxes here for $30 per set or $125 for all five.