Photo courtesy of Rose Plotek.
The third and final week of the Rhubarb Festival is already upon us and we’re sad to see it end, but there are still three more nights to drink in all you can. This week is brimming with introspective and thoughtful all-female performances (plus one splashy, sparkly show featuring singer Ryan G. Hinds, backed by three impossibly gorgeous male backup dancers) that playfully explore some ambitious subjects. The evocatively named Don’t Dream with the Lights On takes a microscope to verbal communication, body language, and self-consciousness, particularly as they play out in interview situations. Having given and received many interviews, it’s a topic that’s always on our minds, so we were thrilled to be able to catch up with one of Don’t Dream‘s captivating performers Lindsey Clarke (who also co-created and starred in week two’s charming hit Moustaches and Lipstick) and peek into the story behind the show.
Torontoist: What inspired you (as a group) to create a show about verbal and non-verbal communication?
Lindsey Clarke: It all started with a project that Rose [the director] and I did in the summer, along with Susannah Fournier and Hannah Cheesman (both of whom couldn’t be a part of Rhubarb, unfortunately). It was called The Truth Project and was presented in workshop format in June. We had a lot of different little pieces that were sort of collaged together as an exploration of the (obviously very multi-faceted) idea of “Truth.” After we presented it, we decided that it needed to have a more specific focus. We all agreed that one of the more successful pieces was one where Hannah re-enacted an interview she had done with a stranger in a coffee shop, playing herself and the person she interviewed. So that’s where our interest was piqued, I think.
What was it like writing a single script amongst six collaborators? How did you go about it?
Well, although we’re all collaborators, after some trial and error really early on, we decided that the only way decisions could be made quickly was if someone took on the role of “director.” And Rose wasn’t really interested in performing, so the roles were pretty easily assumed. At the beginning of the rehearsal process, we would all talk about what interested us, and contribute material and decide what worked and what didn’t—together. But ultimately it was Rose going home and mulling over the structure of the piece, and obviously it’s the three of us performing it. It’s been a great process. I love being able to bring in material and give my input at the same time that I can put my trust in the person who has more of an outside eye. It’s a great balance.
A good part of the show is a parody of the interview process, which hits us very close to home. Did this idea come from, as performers, having to endure being interviewed badly/insincerely in the past?
No, actually. I personally haven’t been interviewed enough to have earned the right to parody it! The interview process was a hangover from The Truth Project. I can’t remember exactly why, but we decided early on in that process that in order to garner original text, we would interview people. It was also a way to connect and involve people with different life experiences than those reflected in our group. It was something that worked then, and we all agreed that it was an interesting and specific way of examining the larger topic of communication.
Why is the Rhubarb Festival important to Toronto?
I think that, like me, Toronto audiences want and need the opportunity to experience theatre in different forms. Rhubarb is a great and fun place to do that—your ticket gets you a real variety of performances in just one night. Also, for me, watching people putting themselves out there or trying something new, even if it might not be what I would choose to do or how I would like to do it, is really inspiring. And of course as a creator, it’s a constructive space to experiment in front of an audience. Safe vulnerability is my favourite kind of vulnerability.
What else have you enjoyed seeing or are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?
I have to say, I’ve found everything I’ve seen genuinely intriguing, entertaining and/or inspiring on some level. The award for “The Piece I Was Most Excited For That Also Happened To Be The Only One I Couldn’t See” goes to Insurgency—it was scheduled at the same time as my show in week two. I’m excited for week three, and really looking forward to Tender Buttons.
The Rhubarb Festival runs until February 28. After Rhubarb, Lindsey Clarke will be performing in Alex Wolfson’s And so, the animal looked back… at the AGYU (Art Gallery of York University) on March 11–12 and Suburban Beast’s Post-Eden on April 14–17.