Sci-Fi Double Feature at Winterlab 2014. Q&A with Brian Fidler.

I was first introduced to the work of Ramshackle Theatre of Whitehorse when Brian Fidler presented Broken at Intrepid Theatre’s UNO Fest in 2013 (my review is here).  Now, Ramshackle returns for Winterlab (January 25th-February 1st, 2014) with Sci-Fi Double Feature—a cardboard puppet show for adults and children alike.

I caught up with Brian when he was deeply immersed in a puppet intensive at the BanffSchool of the Arts (co-incidentally taught by Peter Balkwill of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop who presented Ignorance at Blue Bridge Theatre January 7-18th) and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Sci-Fi Double Feature is billed as “a magical collision of puppetry and film scored with an original soundtrack.  This is a cardboard science fiction puppet show and a full-blown 1960’s action-adventure B-movie, fun for the whole family – come in Sci-Fi costume and get free popcorn!”

Sci-Fi Double Feature Winterlab 2014

What kind of work does Ramshackle Theatre do?

Both of these shows (Broken and Sci-Fi Double Feature) are very different so maybe I’ll describe our process a bit so the link is clearer or at least understandable.  I work with a core group of artists on nearly every production; I spearhead the work and bring the initial idea to the table.  On each production I bring in a guest artist to help raise the bar of the production.  With Broken Maiko Bae Yamamoto came onboard as director and with Sci-Fi Edward Westerhuis brought in his skills as a filmmaker and visual artist.

Once we have our team we sit down with our composer Jordy Walker and brainstorm on how sound is going to fit into the production.  Objects are a big part of every Ramshackle show so we often discuss how the objects can influence music and sound.

All of our shows would fall under the big tent of “physical theatre”.  In the case of Broken we employed several methods of storytelling to tell the story.  Sometimes it was the camera puppet, or a physicalization of an inner journey or the intersection between images and physical storytelling.  With Sci-Fi we cross some of these same boundaries but the content of the story is very different.  In Sci-Fi we are using shadow puppets who are telling the story but, since we’ve spun the whole set around so the audience sees backstage, they are able to see us manipulating those puppets and are also getting the story of the performers and what we’re up to.   Hope that makes sense.

In a nutshell we begin work with the bones of a story and work from a physical place; we get on our feet and play, we build things out of cardboard, we try to bring music in very early in the process and see how the story develops from there.  We also try very hard to find, borrow or create set and props out of cheap or free materials; if the story is strong then simple materials can be very effective

Why are you interested in creating work for all ages?

I don’t know that that’s my initial goal.  I really just follow the story where it leads me.  In the case of Sci-Fi I had thought it would be an adult show but the playful nature of the content, looking backstage on a sci-fi movie set, opened it up to all ages.  Nothing in the show turned out to be adult so it falls in the category of “all ages”.

Also there’s a great atmospheric change that happens when you get kids in the room watching the performance.  I feel like the adults in the audience imagine how the kids are seeing the show and it puts them in a childlike frame of mind.  We’ve done midnight shows and matinees with Sci-Fi and they both seem to have their own brand of chaos, their own gleeful charm.

What do you like about Intrepid Theatre and Victoria?

I love Victoria!  I went to University there and it feels like one of my homes.  I also have family in Victoria so I get to see them which is really nice.  And the ocean, I miss it so much living in the Yukon.  We have our own rugged beauty up here but we don’t have the ocean right on our doorstep.  I have two little boys and they love going down to the shore and collecting shells and sticks and all that great stuff.

I really admire and appreciate the work of Intrepid Theatre.  Being a small Canadian Theatre Company you have to work pretty hard to keep afloat but the quality and sheer volume of the programming that Intrepid puts out there is astounding.  I want my company to have as rich a life as Intrepid.  And Janet Munsil is amazing!

How do you create such different shows and what impact do you want them to have on the audience?

Both shows come from my childhood.  Broken taps into family and awakening while Sci-Fi is pure childhood play.  I think all of my work comes from the joy and awakening I felt when I was a kid.  I still feel that joy/ awe/ openness and that’s what I want the audience to feel and respond to.

Broken ranks as one of my theatrical highlights of 2014.  I look forward to experiencing Sci-Fi Double Feature and hope you do as well. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring the family!

Sci-Fi Double Feature by Ramshackle Theatre at Winterlab
January 30 & 31,
7pm, Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra
Tickets $18/15/10 (children under 12)
Ticket Rocket online, in person or by phone 250 590 6291

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Winterlab is now in its 2nd year.

Engage your senses and brighten your winter with the hottest theatre from the coldest country at Intrepid Theatre’s Winterlab, January 25 – Feburary 1, 2014. The most innovative theatre artists from across the Great White North take over spaces both traditional and unconventional with work that will stretch the imaginations, engage the senses and spark conversations. Multi-disciplinary live performances from Halifax, Whitehorse and brand new work from artists right here at home are all part of the week long festival that returns for a second year. Winterlab will start with a launch party  – the phone is ringing and it’s for you – a one-on-one theatre project from Ottawa/Victoria and a projection show from Halifax, and end with the same company throwing a goodbye party to the city. In between these parties, will be a week of residencies, a puppet and live action adventure for the whole family, and more, so stay tuned…

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