I Said I combines community voices

Theatre Kingston’s new production is more about the performers than about the plot

A troupe of Queen’s students
A troupe of Queen’s students

Theatre Kingston’s newest production, I Said I, is proof that the parts really do make up the whole.

A community art project is how it’s being billed, and according the Kim Renders, Theatre Kingston’s artistic director, community is what it’s all about.

“It’s about Kingston,” she said. “It’s about the people performing in it.”

Renders, who describes herself as the production’s “ring master,” said the production is made up of short performances by community groups, all of which were inspired by the text “Self Accusation” by German playwright Peter Handke.

The text itself is written in the first person, in short sentences: “I walked purposelessly. I walked purposefully. I walked on paths. I walked on paths on which it was prohibited to walk. I failed to walk on paths when it was imperative to do so. I walked on paths on which it was sinful to walk purposelessly,” for example.

Each community group and their mentor were given a section of the text to use as a jumping-off point for their part of the performance. Because the text was only used as a starting point, there’s very little of it actually left in the final product Renders said.

“Any section of this text is relatable because it’s true,” she said, adding that its personal nature brought confessions out of the various groups.

“The text causes people to be very self-reflexive.”

Renders, a professor for Queen’s drama department, said the community groups she approached to participate in the project, such as the H’Art School of Smiles, Kingston Artreach, the Tri-Tone Singers (a senior women’s choir) and Immigration Services of Kingston and Area, just to name a few, were chosen partly because of their lesser-known status.

“I’m interested in more marginalized groups, groups that are disadvantaged,” she said. “Community outreach is something that really appeals to me and working with other artists really appeals to me.”

Renders said the groups were paired up with professional artist mentors. The groups will perform their pieces in a variety of different genres, ranging from puppetry to theatre to dance and music.

“What separates it from amateur theatre is that the community is mentored by professional artists, so the standard of performance is elevated,” she said.

“It’s a very eclectic mix of performance styles.”

Community theatre projects offer the community a way to come together in celebration Renders said, adding that it was like cheering for a local sports team, except that anyone could play.

“You don’t have to be an artist to participate in this,” she said. “Everybody is creative, but a lot of people don’t know they are because they don’t have that outlet in their day to day lives.”

The performers will also get the chance to perform on the newly opened Grand Theatre in downtown Kingston in all its renovated and historical splendor.

Ryan Clement is trained as an actor and in scenic design. He is the mentor for a group of 10 students, aged 13 to 18, from the Limestone and District School Board.

He said his group has two parts in the overall production, with their total stage time at about 15 minutes.

The whole process has been very organic Clement said.

“I didn’t go in with a vision,” he said. “We came together and we read the text. … [We] picked out various passages and themes that interested us.”

Clement said he has been really impressed by the excitement and candor of the kids he’s working with.

“They’ve been very enthusiastic and open with each other,” he said. “They’re constantly surprising me. They’re constantly surprising each other.”

Clement said the students are very respectful of each other, both in how they speak to each other and how they speak one another.

He said, in the end, he’s looking forward to how his group fits into the overall performance.

“Each group has their moment in the sun to create a kaleidoscope of stories.”

I Said I is playing at the Grand Theatre on Thursday, June 26 and Friday, June 27 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 28 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and $12 for students.

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