Montreal October 28, 2016 – Montreal’s Porte Parole and Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre return to Centaur Theatre with The Watershed, another probing Canadian story ripped from the headlines. As with the award-winning Seeds co-production, (Centaur 2013), this too is helmed by the prominent director, Chris Abraham and sees the return of Canadian acting icon, Eric Peterson, to the Centaur stage.
The Watershed follows playwright Annabel Soutar and her family in a journey of discovery, a rollicking cross-country environmental rescue mission. As they uncover the relationship between the federal government’s decision to close Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) and Fort McMurray’s burgeoning oil sands, the audience discovers the complex interconnectedness of the economy and the environment both through the playwright’s investigative journalism and the optimistic eyes of the next generation.
The Watershed world premiered in July 2015 at the Toronto Pan-Am Games as a commissioned work. Don Shipley, one of Canada’s leading artistic directors, was in charge of the arts and culture component of the Games. He had seen Seeds and asked Ms. Soutar and Mr. Abraham to create a new work on the topic of fresh water. From the outset Ms. Soutar knew she wanted the play to address the future and one way to accomplish that was to have her two daughters, 8 and 10 years old at the time, participate in the research. Ms. Soutar admitted that, “It was an impulsive move because I didn’t know exactly what involving them would mean to the play, but I had to include them in the discussion about how we are using, or misusing, the planet’s fresh water resources. There had to be a conversation between our generation and theirs”.
“Annabel excels at making hot topics accessible”, said Centaur’s Artistic and Executive Director, Roy Surette. “She shows us that there are no simple solutions and that these issues can polarize not just our country but our families as well. Audiences will see themselves in the two parents juggling work and family, the extended family get-togethers where tempers run high over differences of opinion, and the efforts to educate children without stripping them of their natural faith in people. She’s captured beautifully the fun and friction, humour and hope in every family and opened our eyes to important issues along the way!”
When the story broke about environmental scientists aggressively opposing the Harper government’s closure of the ELA, following the bread crumbs quickly led to the oil sands but there was so much conflicting information, it became clear that the only way to get to the truth was to go to Alberta. “I got the distinct impression”, said Ms Soutar, “that the government [at the time] was brushing the problem under the carpet and that my job as a playwright was to bring it out in the open”. Putting her family at the centre of the story was Soutar’s way of making the issue of fresh water personal. “I think a lot of Canadians don’t take it personally because they think the problems are decades away. Having my family and me as the main characters helps to make it more personal, and highlights how the personal and the political are bound together.”
Porte Parole has distinguished itself in the realm of documentary theatre using verbatim or ‘found’ text. Director Chris Abraham commented on Soutar’s process of sifting through field recordings and transcripts to find the story behind the headlines, “In her many interviews with politicians, scientists, activist and her own family, Annabel strives to find the beating heart of her stories – stories that are at once political and personal. Her use of people’s real words, and the rhythms of real speech give her dramas special power. With The Watershed, our acting company has revelled in the challenges of capturing this unique moment of our history, and the amazing constellation of passionate Canadians passionately engaged in a struggle to secure our future.”
Everyone in the cast, with the exception of Liisa Repo-Martel in the role of Ms. Soutar, plays multiple roles as politicians, scientists, environmentalists, oil workers and more. Eric Peterson shines as Ms. Soutar’s staunch Conservative father, Alex Ivanovici plays, among others, himself, the playwright’s husband, while Amelia Sargisson plays daughter Ella, Ngozi Paul her sister Beatrice, and Tanja Jacobsas Chris Abraham’s and Liisa Repo-Martel’s daughter, Hazel. Laura Condlln and Bruce Dinsmore complete the stellar cast.
Mr. Abraham is assisted by Andrew Kushnir, the Associate Director of Crow’s Theatre. Four-time Dora Award winner, Julie Fox, designed the set and costumes with lighting by international designer Kimberly Purtell. Thomas Ryder Payne, who creates for dance, theatre and film, designed the sound and Denyse Karn designed the video projections with technical direction by Vincent Normand and touring Technical Director Oz Weaver. Merissa Tordjman is the Stage Manager, assisted by Sarah-Marie Langlois and Apprentice Stage Manager and Video Assistant, Angeline St. Amour.
The Quebec English-Language Premiere of
Written by Annabel Soutar
Directed by Chris Abraham
Co-produced by Porte Parole (Montreal) and Crow’s Theatre (Toronto)
Laura Condlln | Bruce Dinsmore | Alex Ivanovici | Tanja Jacobs | Ngozi Paul
Eric Peterson | Liisa Repo-Martell |Amelia Sargisson
Apprentice Stage Manager & Video Assistant Angeline St. Amour
Tickets available online
or by calling the box office at 514 288-3161