As COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen, theater and dance has begun to step back into the spotlight. Between January 5-8, the West End Cultural Center saw the presentation of In Time, a series of movement-based art performances.
The group that created and performed In Time, the “End of the West Collective,” has a unique connection to the neighborhood where all three of them live. The three creators of the show, Jacquie Loewen, Dave Thomas, and Avinash (Nash) Muralidharan Pillai Saralakumari created the show in Loewen’s backyard. To Scott Henderson, the Lighting Director and Technical Consultant for the show, the creation journey of In Time is part of the appeal of the show.
“It’s about the community and that particular part of the West End,” Henderson said. “Everybody sort of knows each other and Jacquie has kids coming through her yard all the time. It just feels like a real, real community inside this crazy city we live in.”
“It really is sort of like the three of them just sort of tell a bit of the story of this, of this area and what it's all about,"
All three creators produce art in very different mediums, which was the initial driving force behind the creation of the show. Loewen has a background in theater, Thomas is a Indigenous architect, and Saralakumari brought his background in Bharatanatyam dance. Loewen describes their getting acquainted during the midst of COVID as “friends of convenience.”
The show itself is presented more as an experience than a play or a piece as a whole. When Loewen, Thomas, and Saralakumari were first coming up with an idea of what they wanted to create, they decided to choose a story and all interpret it in their own separate ways. The result is In Time: three separate performances or instances of the Greek God Janus, who is tasked to create a Universal Opening. The audience is mixed into small groups and then led to different rooms and shown each performance one after another.
“I also had this idea pre covid, where I would put an audience in a theater, but then make them watch the same play like five times,” Loewen said about creating the show. “Because when I'm in rehearsal for a play, you have to do that, and then you always find more depth in it. People do that with movies, but not with theater.”
For its initial run at Prairie Theatre Exchange in December of 2021, the shows would only let one person at a time to view the performance. For their run at the WECC, the Collective decided to up that number to groups of three or four people.
“I wanted people to be put into a space that would make them uncomfortable enough to open them up into a sense of higher alertness,” Loewen said. “Not too uncomfortable that it would shut them down from hearing the story.”
“I guess I just know if you go into a room by yourself and the door closes behind you and you've never been in that room before, it doesn't mean that the room is scary. But you haven't been there before, so just biologically all of your senses start kicking in to ask, am I safe here? What's going on? Is there a threat? That kind of heightened attention [is what I wanted].”
Both Loewen and Henderson jumped at the opportunity to create a project that is so different to the projects they’re usually involved in. “I usually do large theater stuff like Rainbow Stage, opera, ballet, and MTC,” Henderson said.
“Doing a smaller show like this literally from the ground up… was an amazing thing for me to be involved in. It was really a lot of fun, and eye-opening.”
“I mean, I work in theater - that pays my bills,” Loewen said. “I get to be creative to a degree in that. [But] I guarantee you that a lot of industrial theater is created in exactly the same way where they're like, okay, subscribers, what do you like?”
“That's a very capitalist, forward, way of looking at the creation of something new: to say, this is art and this isn't art.”
Created in collaboration with Theatre Projects Manitoba, if this piece of art makes its way to another stage in the future, it’s well worth checking out.
Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf