The importance of space

Student-run company utilizes immersive theatre

Victoria Condlln, a former Queen’s student, Evelyn Popiel, ArtSci ‘14, and Aimee Bouchard, ArtSci ‘13, pose outside of Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, which was the first space used in a Colliding Scopes production.
Victoria Condlln, a former Queen’s student, Evelyn Popiel, ArtSci ‘14, and Aimee Bouchard, ArtSci ‘13, pose outside of Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, which was the first space used in a Colliding Scopes production.

For some, a production stops when the red curtain closes. For Aimee Bouchard, co-founder and managing director of Colliding Scopes, no such curtain exists.

From shadow puppetry and choreography to original music and immersive theatre, the student-run theatre company, a mere two years old, brings a unique and all-encompassing experience to the artistic table in Kingston.

Bouchard, ArtSci ’13, originally began her post-secondary education in drama at York University. As she left her first year feeling unfulfilled, a door opened to reveal a new experience.

“Coming to Queen’s and being new — I was really worried about that,” Bouchard said. “Even the idea of creating a theatre company is pretty ambitious … but I’ve had a lot of support from the [drama] department, from professors and from friends.”

Colliding Scopes is not an average theatre company. Bouchard said she wants to pursue her own specific interests, immersive theatre being the most significant one.

Immersive theatre, as the title suggests, works to use space that allows for audiences to become a part of the production. In turn, the audience becomes immersed in the choices they must make and in the characters themselves.

In immersive productions, the audience can directly affect the direction of the play through making critical plot decisions. They are made to feel as one in the play, rather than simply watching.

The first space that was experimented with was for their debut production, Shades of Gray, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The space used was Bouchard’s own house in the Student Ghetto, which she said was a decision based on financial constraints but also became the perfect location for a story that related to Queen’s students themselves.

Their second production, An Awfully Big Adventure, was based on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

She said it worked to explore the willingness, or unwillingness, to make difficult decisions in order to grow and change. It took place in a common location where she said personal growth can occur — the Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, a local high school.

She said the use of space ensures that their audience does not become passive.

“Audiences in that space cannot be ignored, they aren’t just being spoon-fed something,” Bouchard said. “It’s really funny watching them, because for the first few minutes they have no idea what they got themselves into.”

Making the shift from passive audience member to a fully immersed one, however, is quick.

“They really do get into it, and by the end you can tell there’s been a switch from anxiety to a sheer thrill with what they’re experiencing,” she said. “Being in that environment makes you a part of that world and you can’t escape.”

Bouchard stressed the importance of the theatre productions being relevant to the everyday life. For a theatre major, she said it’s difficult to watch a production that has little or no relevance to life.

“Why [would I spend] two hours sitting in the dark, watching a story that has no relevance to me?” Bouchard said. “Theatre was created to spark discussion and we may have lost a bit of that.”

It’s time to bring this passion back to Kingston, she said.

In the past, Bouchard said there have been similar efforts to introduce immersive theatre to the Kingston community. She said Colliding Scopes diversifies the arts scene and merges different types of art.

“What we’re trying to do is create a place for the arts community to band together,” she said. “I think it’s a nice way for people to see that we are trying to encourage other groups to collaborate with each other.”

Announcements regarding Colliding Scopes’ 2013-14 productions will occur on Sept. 6.

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