Guest blog post by Savanna Harvey
You find your seat in a dimly lit theatre. You take a few minutes to chat with the person next to you. You skim through your program. The announcement plays, and you turn off your phone. The preshow music fades out. The houselights sink down to black. You wait for the show to start. You wait… for the lights.
But the lights do not come back on. This is Shadowlands.
Shadowlands is my newest play. It is the first play of an experimental trilogy inspired by content and medium. Each play will have avant-garde staging that is in dialogue with its subject matter. For Shadowlands, this means plunging the audience into literal and figurative darkness. “What is true? What is real? How do we know? But how do we know? How do we know…”
There are four characters: Cells in a petri dish. A scientist. A ghost. A laboratory mouse. Who are they? Where are they? What is “they” and what is “here”? How do we know?
I tracked these questions throughout my undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta – followed these questions through the English, Drama, and Philosophy Departments. Shadowlands is very much a synthesis of classes in performance studies and epistemology, ideas explored with Professors Robert Appleford, Kristine Nutting and Bruce Hunter. When I finished my degree in 2015, it was but the beginning of a revolution that would explode my artistic practice.
Since graduating, I have live-streamed a show about social media that took place both on the stage and on the internet. I have created a play where the script was projected in real-time and was as present and active as the actors onstage. I have marched in one of the largest political protests in history and then archived and recreated that protest with mannequins and a couch. I have danced blindfolded in the streets with strangers.
Shadowlands is touring across Canada this summer in the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals tour and will be in Edmonton August 18th – 27th, 2017. Fringe Festivals happen all over the world, and Edmonton’s is the largest in North America. Historically, these festivals are havens for the innovative, the dissimilar, the independent, the new… and yes, the downright bizarre. Theatre from the fringes. In the rich tradition of Fringe Festivals everywhere, Shadowlands embraces all these things.
The reason you should see Shadowlands is the same reason you should see any show at Fringe: there are no rules. This festival is non-curated, un-juried, uncensored. Artists can say whatever they want. They can be whatever they want. They can do whatever they want. Which means, you as the audience, are empowered to do that, too. Fringe is freedom. But freedom is not fail-safe. And if that isn’t drama, I don’t know what is.