A playful exploration about the tensions between individual and group, ideology and flexibility, compliance and resistance, intention and doubt…
MONTREAL, August 20th, 2019. Amid ongoing cover-ups, conspiracies, spin doctors and fake news, how do you pick a side? What inspires people to make the leap from spectator to player or from clicktivist to activist? How much change can you really make (even if you do get off the couch)?
International theatre companies Jump Current Performance (Vancouver/Montreal), Working Group Theatre (Iowa City) and La Barracuda Carmela (Bogotá) are excited to present the world premiere of this intense collaboration, The Riot Ballet, from August 21-25 at the professional performing arts studios of Concordia’s downtown Molson Building.
The Riot Ballet is an ambitious theatrical creation about riot, protest, crowd psychology and our longing to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This interactive, multimedia theatre/live-action game hybrid begins with an online questionnaire/experience before continuing to a cluster of immersive performance spaces. Audiences interact with characters and other audience members, participating via instructions, puzzles, games, tests and technologically-responsive environments. Participants may choose to engage to whatever extent they are comfortable, or remain a passive observer. The task is to avert a potential riot before it explodes. The show culminates in a safe but spectacular burgeoning riot, where actions in the moment determine just how intense the riot will become.
Through innovative use of text, video installation, sound collage and diorama, this compelling, eye-opening event breaks the boundaries between theatre, documentary and video games. Here, audiences experience the real-time journey of becoming a group of recruits charged with keeping the peace with the Commission for Environmental Security. The Riot Ballet rewards with a grand finale that connects the pieces.
The government works hard to make citizens feel heard and represented, but do their polished messages mask corruption? Protestors emerge to challenge the government, are their actions as selfless as they seem? Journalists report the action as it unfolds, are they unbiased or are they twisting facts to support a hidden agenda?
For Noah Drew (co-writer/the role of Journalist/sound designer), the show feels more timely than ever, “Much of the world feels strained across an increasingly stark political divide, yet everything is a game, a fiction… There are companies that hire out crowds for rallies or protests!” Drew can’t wait for The Riot Ballet to start, “At moments, it will feel like being inside a huge, 3D video game, at other moments it will feel like attending a crazy party. It’s an EVENT—part-escape room, part political drama, and part ritual.” He adds, “I hope people come away with a keener eye for the ways various groups and forces seek to manipulate us… and often do, and how we willingly offer ourselves up to be manipulated.”
Martin Andrews (co-writer/the role of Director of Communications/designer) feels privileged to be involved in this country-spanning collaboration, “At a time when so much conflict is occurring in the US over the crossing of borders, this work highlights that art doesn’t respect borders or tyrants. It also confirms that participation is necessary, both in civic life and art,” he said.
Bogotá native Catalina Medina (co-writer/the role of V) has a strong connection to the themes in The Riot Ballet, “In Colombia protests are always criminalized, especially during the last government. Police can be very violent; the latest protests called attention to student issues and many social-community leaders were been killed. I would like audiences to realize that they are part of the problem and therefore part of the solution. Medina’s experiences hit hard with scenic/lighting designer Shawn Ketchum Johnson, “On a conference call with Catalina she described riot police actions happening in front of her; the drift of tear gas across the crowd. Most of us don’t know what that’s like. A complacent citizenry must understand the interconnected nature of intelligence, violence, bias and control,” Johnson stressed.
Emer O’Toole (co-writer) says the themes of the production are “incredibly pertinent to the present moment, where it can feel as though politics as usual isn’t a sufficient response to a rapidly changing climate.” From Ireland, she also sees links with her country’s political context: “Themes of when peaceful protest stops being enough, of when–if ever–violence might be legitimized, of the infiltration of activist or terrorist groups by double agents, all have clear links to Ireland’s recent history.”
Leading the interactive narrative and spanning multiple fields along with Noah Drew, Martin Andrews, Catalina Medina, Emer O’Toole and Shawn Ketchum Johnson, are performers and designers: Shannon Holmes-Officer A; Jamie Nesbitt-projections designer; and Squinky-web designer/games curator. Rounding out the company is: Maureen Adelson, Alyssa Angelucci-Wall, Erin Brahm, Naomi Cormier, Scarlet Fountain, Charles Johnson, Miles Kelly-Baxter, Megan Magisano and Olivia Woods. The stage managers are Elisabeth Nyveen and Alessandra Tom.
After Montreal, The Riot Ballet heads to Seattle University’s Lee Center for the Arts, Sept. 19–22.
When: Wednesday, August 21st to Sunday, August 25th
7 shows only: 6:30pm every night plus 2pm on Saturday & Sunday
Doors open 30 minutes before each performance
Post-show forums on the show’s themes on Aug. 22 and Aug. 24 matinee
Where: Concordia University Molson Building
1450 Guy St. at de Maisonneuve
Admission: $26 general; $18 students/artists/activists/law enforcement
The Riot Ballet is suitable for ages 12 and up.
Tickets available online only: www.theriotballet.com