Theatre causes chaos

Student company strives to create green theatre

Dana McNeill will act in The Odyssey, the first play of the environmentally-minded company.
Dana McNeill will act in The Odyssey, the first play of the environmentally-minded company.

What: Chaos Theory Theatre, a newly established campus theatre company

Who: Tom McGee, ArtSci ’08 and the Artistic Director


Upcoming: The Odyssey, January 2008

Why did you start Chaos Theory Theatre?

Basically I was perceiving a lack of student theatre groups this year, and up until now I’ve mainly been involved in student theatre. A lot of the groups have been graduating and I wanted to stage my own show before the end of the year.

Who are you?

We’re mostly third- or fourth- year drama students but all of us dabble in different areas. I’m a classics minor, our stage manager [Rosemary Nolan] is a math medial, Marianne [Vander Dussen, Producer] is a religions minor. Our idea is to create an interdisciplinary group. A lot of theatre on campus is attended by drama groups and we’d like to broaden that out a bit.

Why the name Chaos Theory?

We named our theatre company Chaos Theory as a branch off of a few things. ... It’s the concept that if a butterfly flaps its wings, the force of the wings flapping will cause a ripple effect that will cause large weather patterns across the globe. As a small theatre company it’s our hope that through our sustainable initiatives and shows, we will have this ripples effect, even if it’s another theatre company saying “hey, that’s cool.” Our hope is that other companies will see that and our audiences will be influenced.

What sets Chaos Theory apart as a company?

We’ve got three major things that set us apart from traditional groups on campus. First and foremost, we’re Canada’s first environmentally sustainable group. … For example, when a set gets taken down they salvage the big pieces but there’s a still a lot that’s wasted. ... costumes are often made out of new material instead of recycled. … Our second main initiative is creating an interdisciplinary discourse between faculties and the Kingston community … to create shows that do bring together different faculties and to have different knowledge-bases at the show. My third initiative is something of a more practically theatrical one: I’ve noticed a major decline in storytelling as an art. Our aim is to bring storytelling back to theatre and make theatre exciting. When people think Shakespeare they think English Class and, most likely, “boring.” I think it’s our job to bring that up off the page and make it exciting.

What projects do you have coming up?

Currently, our big show is an adaptation of the Odyssey by Canadian playwright Rick Chafe. We thought this would be a great springboard for us. The Odyssey will always be like that episode of Wishbone for me. A lot of people have knowledge-bases on the content of the show, the myth. They can come see the show and still comment on it even if they aren’t a classics or English major. … My hope is by putting this on stage, we’ll get people excited about it. With the staging, it was written as a moving story, we aim to create an immersed show where you have the action going on all around you. … It removes that element of “there are people on a stage who are acting.” As theatre-practitioners we want to remind people this is a live art. We’ve got large sword fights, we have dance, music, which will be original. In addition to that, we’re going to have members of the audience participate by having them yell out lines. What are your plans in terms of space?

Right now we’re exploring different venues to present in. We’ve booked Wallace Hall in the JDUC. We’re investigating the Wellington Street Theatre. Wallace Hall is nice and central but the Wellington Street Theatre is more connected to the community as well as Queen’s. We want to encourage that interest in the community.

How do you see your new company fitting into the campus and community theatre scene?

This is really sort of a labour of love for a lot of us. It’s born of our involvement with other companies on campus. Chaos Theory would not be here if not for these other shows but we’d like to explore that niche market between Queen’s and Kingston. … Kingston is at no loss for theatre but it never hurts to have one more and to push a boundary. Single Thread Theatre is there pushing concepts. For us, we want to explore that other zone, that storytelling zone and how we bring a show together; not to repeat, but to enhance. What are your goals for Chaos Theory and how would you like to see the company evolve?

In the immediate sense our goal is to create, first of all, and make a sustainable company economical. Our goal is to make theatre on campus that is more than just a show. … In terms of our evolution, this is our first step towards sustainability. I’m in fourth year now and I’m about to graduate from Queen’s and it’s the place to build it, to plant a seed and have it grow. In five years we’d like to have our start in fringe festivals.

Our goal really is to have green theatre, not just a company but theatre [in general].

From where do you draw inspiration?

The Tea Room from an environmental perspective for how to take a philosophy that a lot of people love and live their personal lives with and take it to a business. It’s possible to start a company with the philosophy in mind. Two student theatre groups: Staged and Confused and Single Thread Theatre Company for showing what theatre companies can do. Single Thread continually pushes the boundaries for audience and spaces. They staged Julius Cesar and it was a following show [where the audience has to follow the actors], which is a big inspiration. Staged and Confused showed me how successful a student company can be. They’re working in Toronto right now.

What’s the philosophy and approach to drama behind Chaos Theory?

Essentially, to sum it up, Chaos Theory is about four things: we’re about creating environmentally sustainable theatre from a green perspective, we’re about creating interdisciplinary discourse between the university and the community, we’re about bringing back the concept of storytelling to theatre and finally about making the most engaging, exciting and fun theatre we can.

—Adèle Barclay

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