DEDICATED TO THE REVOLUTIONS created and performed by the company (Small Wooden Shoe/Buddies/One Yellow Rabbit at Buddies, 12 Alexander). Previews from Saturday (March 28), opens Tuesday (March 31) and runs to April 12, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. Pwyc-$25. 416-975-8555.
Small Wooden Shoe seriously kicks the butt of traditional theatre.
In a series of works inspired by various scientific and intellectual revolutions, the company, headed by Jacob Zimmer, playfully asks audiences to consider questions about who we are and why we're that way.
It all grew from Zimmer's memory of a grade-school list that suggested society developed the way it did as a result of seven revolutions: Gutenberg, Copernican, Newtonian, Industrial, Darwinian, Nuclear and Information.
Each led the troupe to a different-style performance piece, beginning with Do You Have Any Idea How Fast You Were Going?, a show-and-tell take on the Industrial Revolution.
The project winds to a conclusion with Dedicated To The Revolutions, a summary of what the participants have discovered and the creative practices that led them there.
"I never expected it was the beginning of a lengthy process," says Ame Henderson, who's co-directing with Zimmer, "one that would carry us through a whole series of ideas and changes in the world."
"I remember seeing the first two shows, recognizing they were different from anything I'd watched," offers Evan Webber, who began working with the company on Reasonable People, Reasonably Disagreeing, which tackled the Gutenberg galaxy in debate form.
"I discovered that it was possible for a show to be both rigorous and relaxed. I admired the commitment of the creators and the longevity of the project and knew I wanted to get involved."
Does the whole thing sound too heady? Because it's not. I've rarely seen productions as good-humoured, as teasingly intriguing, as these.
Tossed balls, tap dancing, string-and-tin-can communication, oversized Tinker Toys and unintrusive audience participation have been part of earlier shows. And I won't forget the line offered by a participant in the Gutenberg/computer debate, clearly speaking on the side of the former: "You can't get carpal-tunnel syndrome from a book. And books don't break."
"That lighthearted spirit is crucial," notes Henderson, a dancer and choreographer. "It's one of the ways we find connections among ourselves and how we learn to listen to others.
"I think of the shows' humour as having a light touch; we hold on to the ideas not in a clutching fashion but rather so we can turn them, look at them from different angles and then start to toss them around."
"It's different from comedy," adds Webber, a writer and member of One Reed Theatre. "Comedy is always divisive, while humour needn't be. In this case, it's an honest survival strategy of dealing with the material, about making connections between people and ideas."
This final show isn't a compilation of previous ones, but a new way of giving dramatic life to the revolutions' concepts. It can only happen fully, say the two artists, when creators and audience come together.
"Theatre is a progressive form that draws people together," nods Webber, "and, like theatre, these revolutions are about the desire and attempt to create situations where more and more people can be joined."
"There are always new conclusions if we all participate," says Henderson. "Taking the risk to examine these things ourselves, make a proposal that others will find interesting, too, and have them think and laugh with us - that's the real starting point for a process involving artist and audience."
Additional interview clips
Evan Webber's favourite revolution:
Ame Henderson's favourite revolution:
The use of whiteboards in the show: