UNFIT FOR PRECAUTION developed and performed by the Creative Ensemble. December 9 to 11, Thursday and Saturday 7:30 pm, Friday 1 pm. Pwyc ($5 suggested). Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre, York University (4700 Keele). 416-650-3303. Rating: NNNNN
The Art of Collective Creation was one of the foundation stones of Canadian theatre in the 70s and early 80s. Theatres across the country, including Theatre Passe Muraille, Nova Scotia's Mulgrave Road Co-op and Saskatchewan's 25th Street Theatre, perfected the process in shows that have since become classics. Now there's a contemporary troupe at York developing collective works for a new generation of artists and audiences.
The group is the fourth at the university to be involved in a three-year program that asks them to hone an assortment of skills, including directing, writing, acting and production work. Supervised by instructor Mark Wilson, the 20-member company offers a series of six works gathered under the title Unfit For Precaution.
"The process allows us to combine our skills, find our own voice, speak to our own issues," says collective member Koby Rogers Hall. "Creating as a group allows for multiple voices rather than a single perspective, and the result is a dynamic, innovative environment for developing a piece."
The 20 artists take courses in everything from English and psychology to theatre production, so the ideas funnelling into the class are diverse.
"We start with a concept, then discuss what our options are. From there, we get involved in investigative research, which might be historical or thematic. Then we improvise, generating a workshop on our feet," adds Hall, who's also the group's media relations point person.
"From that comes the personalization of the material, the story-making that turns the piece into theatre."
For the current sextet of shows, the company's broken down into smaller collective units to create plays about "politics, privates and everything in between, works that often re-evaluate preconceived social ideals or challenge the status quo."
The styles range from musicals to physical and imagistic theatre.
In the spring, the group will produce a larger effort on which all 20 members collaborate.
"The great thing about the program is the confidence and independence we've developed," notes Hall. "We're always encouraging each other while offering critical discussion and challenging each other to go further.
"In the end, I think we end up challenging the audience as well. Because many of the pieces have a sociopolitical bent, we're finding a way to bridge the gap between theatre and society. Theatre isn't outside of us, we've learned; rather, it's about the social and philosophical aspects of everyday life."