Showbiz Update: Canada - The West: Theater

Is it theater, or is it art? Is it a live performance, or is it a cinematic experience? Electric Company Theater brings a distinct edge to Vancouver’s live entertainment scene with its experimental approach to productions, pushing aside conventional boundaries while keeping audiences engaged — often to the extent that they become part of the show.

Electric Company was formed as a collective in 1996 by director Kim Collier, David Hudgins, Jonathon Young and writer Kevin Kerr, who met while training at Studio 58. They create original works as well as adapt existing plays, with an emphasis on physical and visual imagery, often crossing disciplines and integrating new media.

In its 15th season, Electric Company has put on 12 mainstage productions, gone on tour eight times across Canada, the U.S. and Scotland, written two screenplays and has won theater awards across the country. Although its original intention was to only produce new work created by the company, it has recently expanded the mandate to include productions of existing scripts reinterpreting classics such as “No Exit,” a successful take on Sartre’s classic with a cinematic approach that involves hidden cameras.

In fact, its work is so cinematic that Trish Dolman ended up adapting its play, “The Score,” for CBC.

Electric Company is housed in a 6,000-square-foot building located in the artsy and decidedly indie Commercial Drive neighborhood, sharing the space with three other theater companies. “This level of collaboration among organizations is somewhat unique in Canada and reflects our earliest impulses as a company,” says artistic director Kerr.

Filmmaker Brian Johnson has worked with Electric Company on several projects as a d.p. to help realize large-scale video work/projections integrated into the stage performances. “I like to think of our relationship as collaborative — as that’s how generous those guys are with their work,” says Johnson. “They are really bringing an international scope and pedigree to what’s happening in theatre here.”

Next for Electric Company is a re-envisioning of Tad Mosel’s “All the Way Home” and a project with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.

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