Players Bend the rules and push the limits

around the Bend (players)
Wednesdays – Grand Bend Farmers’ Market; other dates and locations: see website

Interview & photos by Casey Lessard

aroundtheBend(players) are seven University of Windsor theatre students living in Grand Bend for the summer and performing street theatre at venues including Evinc Studios, the Grand Bend Farmers’ Market and the Lakeview Café.

Around the Bend PlayersWhat kind of theatre do you do?
Joshua Browne: We adapt our work to whatever our audience and whatever our space is. We’re performing at the Lakeview in a few weeks – probably some Shakespeare on their patio. We’ve talked about doing a show at the mini-golf place where it has all these little houses that look very Victorian, so we had an idea of doing some Shaw there and having an evening event or even have it happen while people are playing golf. We did clowning at the Farmer’s Market last Wednesday.

Who thinks of the themes and who thinks of the ideas?
Sean Topps: It’s a collaborative effort. We want to create our own work to reflect the community rather than to dictate to the community what we’re going to perform. It’s about all of us having a really open dialogue and a form of communication to collaborate and concoct a piece.

What do you hope to get out of being part of something like that?
Allie Boak: Becoming a self-sufficient actor I think is very important, especially nowadays in theatre and just exploring different types of theatre like site-specific work and working with this excellent group of people.

What do you hope the Grand Bend audience gets out of this?
Stephanie Carpanini: We want people to make up their own story through what they are seeing. Not necessarily always presenting to them your typical kind of conventional theatre and that it doesn’t have to be on a stage. We’re trying to give our age group and younger kids a love for art.
There aren’t a lot of young people anymore that appreciate theatre – I mean there are but nowadays kids just want to go out and party and drink beer – the kids on the streets of Grand Bend last night anyways.

Around the Bend PlayersWhen you look at the work that you guys are doing, what do you hope to address in the work that you are doing with this group?
Carolyn Lawrence: It’s important to challenge the audience. I mean you take these people, like last night, that are drunk and it’s easy to label them as drunks and they aren’t coherent and they wouldn’t understand so let’s give them a couple simple jokes and make them happy but you start to realize that there’s more to it than that. You can’t just label that audience. There were older generations walking by and there were some kids that would walk by.

Based on your experience last night and the practices you guys have been doing what have you learned so far from the experience?
David BakerDavid Baker: The show we did last night was very crazy and sort of raunchy. We did that because we knew the audience that we were going to direct it towards. And then we got all this crazy feedback. For some reason I was a little surprised but then again the audience reflected what we were doing in the same way. Sort of what we were doing on stage was exactly what was going on off stage. They were throwing pizza at us.
Joshua: As much as getting hit with a pizza sucks and heckling is a pain and it hurts, it’s also real. It’s also a real dialogue and we learn from that.

Christine, there was a tough scene where you’re having (simulated) oral sex performed on you. It’s a public place; you’re portraying something that’s very private. There’s sodomy and all this other stuff. What do you expect the reaction to be from the audience? I saw one group of people walk away at that scene.
Christine Carr after gritty simulated oral sex sceneChristine Carr: It was a comment on the life of Grand Bend, the life of these tourists who come into town. I think people sat there and had a little click in their minds that maybe this is an experience they’ve had and that’s why they walked away, or it’s something they relate with this party scene. As an actor it’s a scary thing to do. It takes a lot of guts and being able to throw yourself out there and go for it. There’s a fine line where it becomes pornography. Yeah, it was scary to go out there. It was risqué. The things that are the scariest are the most worthwhile. It makes it exciting and challenges the audiences. As long as you are true to the story and are specific.

Sean: The piece came out of a dissatisfaction of our culture at our age. Our generation, our pop culture. And the things we think are glossed over or missed in a lot of ways. Our knowing things aren’t quite right here. What we did is very surface and that’s what our culture is. It’s sex-driven and not of the self. That’s why we wanted to show it on stage.

Joshua: We drink, we party. We are part of this culture as much as anyone. It’s poking fun at stuff, but it’s not meant to put anyone down. We’re not trying to come down from on high; we’re trying to hold up a mirror. Sometimes it’s too accurate and hard to take.