It might be the most taken-for-granted way of experiencing the world we have: sound—both the hearing and making of it, and all of the easy communication that comes along as handy perks.
But, as its title implies, The Silence Project is looking to do without that: to remove the crutch of words and voice and musical score from theatre, and see how we all experience a world (and a narrative) without them. The collectively created look at isolation is stripping the stage of all unavoidable sounds—a hurdle for its creators in Punctuate! Theatre, certainly. But the idea came from an urge to make theatre more viable to those it typically isn’t an option for.
“It’s accessibility, really,” Sheiny Satanove begins. “When you start an indie theatre company, you sit around and you’re like, ‘OK, how do we get people to come see our shows?
“It’s about bringing in those people who don’t see theatre because they can’t,” adds Elliott James, sitting beside her. “Finding those little pools of people who would love to come see a play but just feel like they wouldn’t understand, or be involved enough to be able to see it. We were talking about trying to find something like that, then we began throwing out the idea of a totally silent thing—at the time not really thinking how difficult it would be.”
Developed by a five-strong ensemble, The Project’s central character is a traveller of sorts: a lone figure, feeling cut off from her own world, who escapes into a dreamy alien realm. There, she’s forced to try and find her way home, as well as learn to communicate with the people and creatures she encounters. In other words, sound isn’t just being denied to the audience while the actors mime conversation: the script hinges on characters trying to work around a similar impasse.
Both James and Satanove note the importance of breath to the process: not just for the audience—”When you watch someone on stage not breathe, you don’t breathe,” James points out—but for the other performers as well.
“One of the things that’s been very hard so far is hearing our cues,” James says. “There aren’t any.”
“When we go off stage to do a costume change, how do you know when to come on?” Satanove adds.
An atypical sort of challenge for a company, certainly, but a brave one to undertake in independent theatre.
“We just have to trust that we’re enough. That silence can be enough,” James says. “It’s powerful, because when everyone’s dead silent, everyone’s on edge.”
Until Mon, Jan 13 (7:30 pm)
TACOS space (10005 – 80 Ave), $15 – $20