HOW IS IT THAT YOU WANT TO LIVE? written and directed by Peter Reitzel, with Michael Chipman, Dennis Frey, Julie Reitzel and Peter Reitzel. Canadia dell'Arte Theatre (186 Munro). Opens tonight (Thursday, April 12) and runs to May 6, Thursday-Sunday 8 pm. $10-$15. 416-465-7393. Rating: NNNNN
canadia dell'arte theatre has embellished Ibsen, brocaded Baudelaire and staged Schumann.
"But it's time to throw away the crutch of someone else's writing," says director Peter Reitzel. "We haven't done an original piece since Spirits three years ago, and it's time to create a body of work that's truly our own."
Even Spirits, a melancholy musical with a pre-show that was too long, revealed the outside influence of Brecht. But it also offered a vision of the company's intention to venture into the new, unexpected and -- here's a word that's not often applied to theatre -- impulsive.
"We (the others are Michael Chipman, Dennis Frey and Julie Reitzel) insist on work that's inspired. We won't create out of the necessity of having to mount a show," says the solemn, dark-garbed Reitzel. Even when he takes off his black sweatshirt, he's wearing a black T-shirt underneath.
"It doesn't matter whether we look like asses, because it's more important that something outrageous -- good or bad -- can happen at any moment.
"I want the audience to leave our productions with opinions. I'd rather that they be pissed off than complacent."
Take, for example, the troupe's latest show, How Is It That You Want To Live?, written and directed by Reitzel. It links a blind architect, his crabby downstairs neighbour and a couple living covertly in a crawl space in the architect's apartment. Reitzel doesn't so much forward a plot as examine people in specific situations, and he's written with the strengths and personalities of his company in mind.
"The story is an expression of the choice that we and other people our age have to face. You can be aggressive and jump into a 9-to-5 to get ahead, or you can obey the passionate, artistic urge. You can't work all day to successfully pay down a mortgage and contribute to an RSP and also be a writer on the side."
Knowing that he would be wearing many hats for the show -- he's writing, directing, designing and acting -- Reitzel invited the Ooomph! Group's Chad Dembski to assistant direct and be an outside eye. The companies share an interest in movement-oriented works and a concern for getting a theatrical idea on its feet, regardless of viewers' reactions.
In fact, Canadia dell'Arte's work has won the attention not only of audiences but also of arts juries. Reitzel and his wife Julie shared one of last month's K.M. Hunter Artists Awards for their theatre work.
"It couldn't have come at a better time," sighs Reitzel. "My laptop was stolen (after this script was finished), we had problems with our lighting equipment, the show's poster had to be redone. It felt like we were hexed.
"The award was a beam of light in that darkness.
"We don't take it as a sign that we're better than other companies, but that it's our turn to be recognized. The prize money isn't something to retire on, but a coaxing to continue."