As an official media partner of the 30th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we feature PETER SHAW – director and co-playwright of Quietus Productions’ THE SILENT SIGN. Read our Q&A with the artist in anticipation of the show’s premiere on June 12th at La Balustrade.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is The Silent Sign about?
PETER: This show is like a meta-study on the loneliness and frustrations of an actor making self-tape after self-tape. I like to think of theatre as a space for distilling particular experiences from the emotional landscape, distilling and also magnifying. Theatre as a site of examination, profound contemplation. The show also delves into personal experiences of both me and Claudio with loneliness, isolation, depression, and (in this case just for me), psychosis.
MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it?
PETER: They can expect to see Claudio Tamburri, an accomplished performer exploring the emotional grey hues of loneliness and isolation while deconstructing the experience of making a film. And it’s not all so glum, there are definitely many moments of humour, plenty of references to literature and popular culture (if you’re into that sort of thing), and a cameo from long-time friend and collaborator Anne-Marie St. Louis. Finally, there is a little thriller/mystery element to it, which I won’t discuss too much for the sake of not giving it away!
MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece?
PETER: Claudio had the idea of doing a fringe show, and he wanted it in part to explore his experience as an actor. In the past, Claudio and I worked on exploring Shakespeare’s Richard the Third as a gateway into exploring various aspects of Claudio’s various personae, as well as to offer pointed critiques of the failings of both the right and the left of the political spectrum. So this time we wanted to explore an ancient Greek tragedy, and immediately thought of either the Oresteia or Prometheus Bound. We fiddled around many ideas and came up with this meta narrative about a guy who acted in an Aeschylus play suddenly being cast in a one man film about a writer who’s making an adaptation of Aeschylus’ works. One night I just said to Claudio, “what if we did something Meta?”
MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?
PETER: Claudio applied for the Fringe and called me up at 9pm on a Saturday night to tell me he got in. I was extremely reluctant, but after two days of meditation on the matter, I thought it would be absolutely fantastic. I’ve been in Montreal for 10 years in and around the theatre scene, particular around Concordia, and I decided this year that I would move back to Ottawa to go to Teacher’s College. So I thought, it would be a great thing to do one last play with my buddy Claudio. We’d done shows at Concordia together, and I stage managed this show of his (I, Christopher) that played in both Montreal and Toronto Fringes in 2019. That time in Toronto was a time of great adventure, and I hoped to relive it one last time, as I say goodbye to this city that I love so dearly.
MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?
PETER: Pretty fun, actually. We’ve been very gentle, the stakes are very low for me (oops, not supposed to admit that!). We’ve done a lot of rehearsals over Facebook Messenger video, where Claudio does a great job of mocking up the set from his room. We’ve also rehearsed at Jarry Park in the pine forest with the birds and the squirrels and the sunbathers and exercisers. And we worked fast! We had two interview sessions of about three hours (over delicious Portuguese Chicken at LaFontaine Park), and then I wrote the play in about two days. We’ve had to cut a lot, due to the 30-minute time slot we signed up for.
MTH: What’s kept you driven to keep creating during this past year?
PETER: A huge shout out to both Freefalling Monthly and Cafe Concret. They provided a deadline. That’s hella-motivating. But also, learning to let go and have fun and get messy, and even get clean!
MTH: How does it feel to be back presenting on a live stage?
PETER: Daunting. But we’re in a venue I have fond memories of, and so it will be great to do this send-off there. Very fitting.
MTH: How does this show/story speak to our present times?
PETER: There is a great article floating about the internet describing the medieval emotion of Acedia (look it up, you’ll find it!). Acedia was a feeling that mainly isolated monks described, and one way of describing it is “staring up at the sun, and wishing that it would set faster.” In any case the author of that article makes an excellent comparison to this as a common feeling during the pandemic. At its core, this show explores Acedia. So even though it is pretty specific in its content, I hope that people will be able to resonate with and purge a little of the loneliness and isolation that they experienced this year.
RAPID FIRE ROUND
What have you missed most about the Fringe?
Seeing a bunch of shows in a row!
Favourite Fringe show you’ve ever seen?
Ah! Too many! Spurt of Blood of course. The Carrot! Anything by Acherontia Productions, they are my hero!!!
#Fringebuzz: which show(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?
Wretch, The Celebrity Obsession, GlenMary KateMoss, The Box.
Peter is a performance creator and community educator. They graduated in 2017 from Concordia University’s Theatre and Development Program. They collaborated with Claudio Tamburri and Anne-Marie St. Louis for LaSerre Arts Vivants 2017 edition of Vous Etes Ici/You Are Here. After 10 years in Montreal, they are returning to Ottawa to go to Teacher’s College for the Primary/Junior level. Their main focus in art is to explore Formal Hybridities, to use the Canon as raw material and to examine the gap between Art and Life.
THE SILENT SIGN presented by Quietus Productions runs from June 12-20 at Monument-National’s La Balustrade (1182 St-Laurent Boulevard). Tickets ($8.00-$10.00) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca
Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series: