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Asphalt Jungle Shorts: as local as local gets
Submitted by Tim on Wed, 09/18/2013 - 12:53pm
Asphalt Jungle Shorts is as local as you can get when it comes to theatre here in KW, theatre in which Flush Ink Productions turns downtown Kitchener into its own vast stage.
“Anybody who lives here should see it at least once,” says Impact artistic director Majdi Bou-Matar. “It’s a very KW experience. You will see every day places in whole new ways, and for visitors from out of town it’s an opportunity to see this city up close and personal.”
Asphalt Jungle Shorts, now in its 10th iteration, is a series of short (45 seconds to 13 minutes) plays performed in various public spaces near King and Queen in downtown Kitchener. The box office and starting place is Misty Mountain Coffee, 33 Queen St. S., across from the Walper Hotel. You buy your ticket, then wait for the show to start. Theatre will break out around you.
A pair of guides lead the way as the short spurts of theatre play one after the other. On the street corner, in a back alley, in a local bar. This unique theatre experience is a signature innovation of Flush Ink Productions artistic director Paddy Gillard-Bentley.
“I love it because it creates a stage out of everything in the environment around us,” she says. “When you do theatre the way we do it, out in the street or in the cafe, the gap between the stage and the audience disappears. As much as I love the traditional theatre, there is always the knowledge that you’re in a theatre. You’re sitting in a chair, looking towards a stage, waiting to be entertained.
“In Asphalt Jungle Shorts there’s a real sense of unpredictability. You’re always on alert because you don’t know when the next piece is going to start. You think, maybe that guy on the corner is going to do something, or maybe that woman with the shopping cart is part of the play.”
Ten years ago the actors and audience of sixty came across two cops making an arrest.
“Everybody stopped to watch the play, but it wasn’t a play,” Paddy says. “The officers got a little rough on the guy and you could see the audience getting nervous, looking to the ‘guides’ for an answer, as if to ask, this is part of the performance, right? The actors finally gave a sort of shrug to say, nope, this is just Kitchener. To watch an audience slink away...enmasse...very funny.”
Most of the plays in this Best-of production of Asphalt Shorts are written with Kitchener specifically in mind, by playwrights from across North America (Mark Harvey Levine, Emma Watson, Michael Bettencourt, Deborah Yarchun), England (Kate Tempest) and Ireland (Brendan Griffin). Eight plays are written by local playwrights - Gary Kirkham, Virgil Burnnett, Jennifer Cornish, Roger Sumner & Paddy Gillard-Bentley.
With an enthusiastic following of playwrights from around the globe who flock to Flush Ink’s playwright-friendly style, attracting submissions for Asphalt Jungle Shorts is easy. Making their plays work on the pavement, that’s the hard part.
“It’s not just about how you’re walking and where you have to go next,” says Paddy, “but who’s in what play and can they change in time, are there two funny pieces together, two abstract pieces together, is he with her in another play? What if it rains? What’s the traffic like there? What else is going on there at that time? The logistics are an interesting nightmare.”
For her, perhaps. It’s pure theatre for the rest of us.
Asphalt Jungle Shorts X starts 8 p.m., September 19, with performances Sept. 25-29 as part of Impact 13. Get thee to Misty Mountain Coffee. Space is limited. Reserve tickets are $20 at firstname.lastname@example.org.