The University of Alberta’s drama department is a mainspring of Edmonton’s theatre community—and now audiences have the chance to see some of the faculty’s research in action at its annual StageLab Festival.
“I think it’s one of the challenges that the fine arts always come up against within the university structure, when we use the term ‘research,'” Julie Brown, StageLab’s producer, says. “We don’t go into a lab and work with test tubes and animals, and that’s how most people think of research. We go into a rehearsal hall and we work with human beings to tell stories.”
StageLab began in 2011 and ran for two years before taking a break to regroup and solidify its mandate. Now, it will alternate between June and August, and each year will feature completely different works as the various faculty members of the drama department take turns presenting their current research projects, assisting them on the path towards a final product, whatever that turns out to be—a new script, a full production or even a film.
Of the three pieces being presented this year, one is complete: A Musta Be, by Jane Heather and Old Earth Productions. The show provides a voice to aboriginal women and has been performed throughout May and June on aboriginal reserves across the province. The other two pieces are both works in progress: a devised theatre piece conceived by Kathleen Weiss and Nadien Chu called House of Furies, and the first version of an original play called Grow, Grow, Grow! based on African folktales written by Tololwa Mollel and directed by Jan Selman.
“We’re a microcosm of the larger community,” Brown says. “When you look at what’s going on in the larger community, there is such tremendous diversity in this town. It blows my mind; I’ve been a part of the theatre community in Edmonton since the late ’70s and the growth has been remarkable.
“The really lovely thing is we continue to feed each other,” she continues. “The department feeds the community and the community continues to come back and feed the department. It’s a pretty cool synchronicity that happens. I do believe, with all my heart, the reason this community is so strong and so powerful in terms of theatre is absolutely because of the drama department.”
Thu, Jun 26 – Sun, Jun 29
Timms Centre for the Arts, free