An Interview With End of the West Collective

End of the West Collective, is a collaboration between three West End neighbours,  Dave Thomas, Avinash Muralidharan Pillai Saralakumari and Jacquie Loewen.

They have been safely gathering in a backyard and telling stories around a fire, which is how this collective was ignited! With support from TPM, End of the West is developing a Covid safe performance integrating puppets, masked dancers, and film, created expressly for a single audience member. Built to happen in communities starting this winter and popping up around the city throughout 2021.

We caught up with Jacquie to learn more!:

How would you describe this Theatre-for-1 Project?  What is the concept?

We are going to install a built environment, an oval-shaped cave/Workshop of the Gods, which one person at a time can enter and experience the show.  In this space, puppets, masked dancers and film create the story of a God interrupted in their work by an unsuspecting human, and what magic might allow them to see each other.

Tell us the short story of who your group is and why you are making a thing together:

Dave,  Nash and I all met around a fire. We are neighbours who knew each other in passing for a wave or borrowing a ladder, but this summer with its Staying in Place mandate, at the end of days spent separately, we would occasionally find ourselves around the fire in my backyard.  It began as naturally and casually as any growing thing, where someone would talk about something they did or mention a personal interest, and the skills and stories of our separate lives started mixing with each other.

Nash would tell stories from the Indian pantheon he’s lived and breathed since birth, and connect them to the Indian classical dance that he has studied most of his life.  When he would dance some of the story of Vishnu and the peacock, in the dance the story was as physically clear as storytelling through mime, which I love.

Dave mentioned in passing one day that his architectural designs were a part of Canada’s presentation at the Venice Biennale, and I had to stop making marshmallows and find out who is this guy who lives across from me?  From Peguis First Nation, his ideas about structural storytelling through design and architecture jazzed up the parts of me that want to give an experiential environment to an audience as a show.

I’d had an idea of a form for storytelling (this Theatre-For-1 immersive environment) that I wanted to try out, and so started having Art Dates with Nash and Dave to see how their skills and interests might fill that out.  And from there it’s just taken on a life of its own!  I wrote a story that we could tell, from the archetypal view of gods and imagination, something larger than individuality, so that we could all dig into it from our own points of history.  It’s the most creatively exciting to have a shared story to tell, from three different views. So now we are following the artistic path of taking story, space and movement to build a place for a person to enter, that is -thankfully- a little bigger than them.

When you light a fire, you never know who will be drawn to it.

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