Losing track of time in Heterotopia

Cast members rehearse a tense scene from Heterotopia.
Cast members rehearse a tense scene from Heterotopia.

Theatre Review

Heterotopia @ ILC/atrium of Beamish-Munro Hall, March 14-18

Welcome to Heterotopia. “Where?” you ask. Heterotopia is a place and a play its dramatist and scientist creators describe as “What happens when you lose track of time ...” It’s a shared moment of consciousness, a question about time and a coming together of the lost minds of seven confused characters.

It’s a room where dialogue flows enigmatically yet truthfully as the mysterious characters attempt to decipher who they are, where they are, why, and how exactly they can leave. It’s a collaborative effort to explore the three massive themes of time, education and social consciousness. Confused? Intrigued? To delve into Heterotopia a little further, catch it at the atrium of Beamish-Munro Hall, Tuesday March 14 until Saturday March 18 at 8 p.m., with a matinee on March 18 at 2 p.m..

Initially and tentatively titled the Time Project, the venture began when local award-winning playwright Ned Dickens sent out a vague ad inviting anyone interested in participating in a project that may include writing and performing. Adam Rysanek, Caitlin Raftis, Dustin Freeman, Kelsey Benning, Grace Soo, Chris Beeman, Shawn Northwood and Joanne Williams responded to the somewhat cryptic challenge and joined Dickens and director Caroline Baillie in constructing the script over this past fall term. Baillie had originally intended to produce an adaptation of Hoeg’s Borderliners, but instead decided on co-creating a piece based on the themes found in the Borderliners, such as the idea, “What is time?” Drawing from the aforementioned themes, the collaborators began the long and intense process of distilling the general ideas down to actual, precise dialogue, characters and histories for the characters. The play progressed as its creators came together for several workshops with Dickens, the writing facilitator, throughout the fall term to establish ideas and edit material. Much of the material brought to workshops was conceived online on a blog set up for the project. To develop and discuss the play, the writers made posts in character and composed sections of dialogue that would go on to become parts of the script. The unique approach and coming together of voices on the blog caused them to dub these sections of dialogue in the play “polylogue.” The disconnected nature of conversation via the Internet proved to be a suitable medium for composing the play, as the characters appear on stage together to converse, but seem to be wandering isolated and full of their own questions and desires.

While conceiving the basis of the play, the writing team looked to science and art for inspiration. Discussions ranged from quantum mechanics to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, from time being different on the moon to Tom Tykwer’s film Run Lola Run.

As assistant director Northwood explained, the title Heterotopia comes from the essay “Of Other Places” by French philosopher Michel Foucault, in which Foucault discusses the timelessness of information centres likes the Internet and libraries. The word Heterotopia literally means “other place,” and it may be real or imagined. The philosophical nature of the play, the exploration of time and the uncertain space the characters seem to be inhabiting as they search for whatever it is they’re looking for make Heterotopia an appropriate title. The Critical Stage Company is Baillie’s theatre company, which is focused on innovative writing and the merging of science, art and social consciousness. This is reflected not only in the issues and aim of the play itself, but also the cast and creators, who span a diverse range of disciplines. This year’s actors and writers bring their experiences and expertise as their majors are all over the board: engineering, mathematics, english, drama, biology, film and concurrent education. Just as the characters cohabit and converse in shared consciousness, this production relied on the combining of its creators’ varied voices.

The spring term has seen the completion of the script, the casting of its seven puzzling characters and the final touches as opening night approaches. Original music compositions and arrangements by Christos Smirnios and Mike Perlin will complement the production, while Benning’s evocative and creative posters have been launched to advertise for Heterotopia.

Heterotopia is being put on by the Critical Stage Company in conjunction with the Integrated Learning Centre with help from the George Richardson Memorial grant.

Now that the disjointed and stimulating world of Heterotopia has been established and explored by its creators, they’re extending the invitation ...

Tickets can be purchased from the JDUC at Destinations or from the Integrated Learning Centre Office by calling 533-3130 or e-mailing sharpel@post.queensu.ca.

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