Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.
November 22, 2012, by

Interview with interdisciplinary artist Ciara Adams

Pam Patel, Michael Spence, Madeleine Donohue, Joel Benson & Ciara Adams in The Sacrifice Zone

Theatre Gargantua Artistic Intern and emerging artist Meara Tubman-Broeren interviews one of our favourite Toronto artists Ciara Adams about her work on The Sacrifice Zone and her long history with the company as a creator and collaborator.

MEARA: First I wanted to ask about your history with Gargantua, because you have a long history with the company, and I wondered if you wanted to speak to that experience, and how you got involved with them?

CIARA: I first started working with Theatre Gargantua in 2003. I had a friend who was one of the founding members of the company, her name’s Erica Buss, she had originated one of the parts in Raging Dreams and they were remounting the show. She told me I should audition, so I did, and ended up taking on the role she had originated. After we finished that remount the company started the e-DENTITY cycle, I was an associate artist with the company throughout that entire cycle, from the very first day until we finished the show at the Royal Alex. I stayed on for the first version of Fibber, then things got really busy with my music and bluemouth as we were creating Dance Marathon. It’s been great to be working with Theatre Gargantua again on The Sacrifice Zone.

MEARA: You work and devise theatre with other companies as well, in particular bluemouth, so I’m curious about your personal creation process and how that feeds into the Gargantua process.

CIARA: We are in the middle of a new development process with bluemouth, and it has highlighted the differences in a Theatre Gargantua process and a bluemouth process: it’s really illustrated to me that bluemouth is really not a theatre company, we’re a performance collective (if there ever was any doubt). Theatre Gargantua’s work, though highly collaborative, original and devised, lives much more in the world of theatre, and structurally speaking, it’s more traditional in so much as there’s a director, a script, and you’re working as an actor, be it a multitasking interdisciplinary actor! Whereas in bluemouth we don’t work with a director, we create collectively, sometimes I need to be more of an actor, sometimes a musician, at others a dancer, and we all act as the “outside eye”, so yes, very different worlds. It’s really interesting being involved with both companies because aesthetically speaking, they’re quite different, and as a performer and creator it’s my job to shift to the current situation and context.

MEARA: So part of the creation process for the show was sharing personal stories and experiences around the issue of justice, and one of the stories that became a big influence on this piece was your experience teaching in Fort McMurray.

CIARA: I was thinking about it last night, and one of the things I think is really great about The Sacrifice Zone is that it’s not set in any one place, it could be the coal mines in Wales, it could be Australia, Canada, nearly every country has some kind of mining or extraction industry or history of such. It was by chance that I just returned from my second trip to Fort McMurray when we did the first development of The Sacrifice Zone in June. I go there as a teacher with the Royal Conservatory of Music Schools program Learning Through the Arts. It’s a somewhat surreal place, and even though it’s the oil sands, and there are all these politics associated with it, it’s also a community like any other. These kinds of communities exist all over the world, where the local industry, and therefore economy is so closely linked to day to day life. Fort McMurray has its challenges for sure, being able to go there and bring the arts to that community feels important to me because that’s how we all tell our stories and understand who we are.

MEARA: I’m curious about how, since your formal training was in voice and acting, you ended up in the world of more physical work and collective devised work.

Ciara in motion with Michael Spence

CIARA: I did start as a music major it’s true, but by the time I got to the end of my undergrad, what interested me had shifted and I was really inspired by new forms of contemporary postmodern theatre that were emerging. So when I went over to the UK, I knew that I wanted a classically based training, but I was also really interested in devised theatre and contemporary work. I chose the Guildhall School of Music and Drama specifically because they had embraced devised theatre practice and there was lots of movement and voice training. I had studied dance growing up, done gymnastics, and been an althlete, so it just sort of followed on from there. I do love the fact that I knew exactly the kinds of companies I wanted to be working with, when I moved back to Canada, I was able to find them. There’s a great story actually, when I still lived in the UK I met an actress who was coming to Canada to work on a new show, when she described the company that she would be working with and I thought “my god that sounds amazing, that’s exactly the kind of company I want to work with if I ever move back to Canada”, flash forward a couple years, that conversation long forgotten, when I discovered she had been working with Theatre Gargantua.

MEARA: That’s amazing! Something that’s interesting about this show is that we started with quite a naturalistic text, with quite a lot of text, and the process has been a lot about finding the physical undercurrent of that text and how the text becomes physical. As a performer, how do you navigate that dual thing that’s going on, shifting between the physicality and the text?

CIARA: This process has been very interesting because it has been different from my other Theatre Gargantua experiences. I am sure if you asked Jacquie, the director, she would agree, that it has been quite different from the norm. We did a lot of table talk and reading through the script at the beginning, and Suzie Miller, the playwright, was doing an incredible amount of rewriting based on our daily rehearsals, which I think was quite useful for us as actors because it gave us a real understanding of the characters through that process. Now it’s gotten to the point where slowly we’re coordinating the physical life with the script itself. Now it’s getting to the point where we are able to marry the emotion with the physical. Sometimes that can be tricky because you’re not just having to think about how you’re feeling while acting, you’re having to think about how you’re feeling as you interact, fall to the ground, and roll while saying your lines. But I have always loved that challenge, which is why I do find it really satisfying working with Theatre Gargantua.

MEARA: Would you like to talk about what you have coming up next after this?

CIARA: I would love to talk about that! After this, I’m very excited that bluemouth is undertaking our second phase of development for our new piece which is called Stay (a) Wake: A Field Guide for Strip Poker, it’s a working title, but people seem to like it. We have a residency for our second development phase at Hub 14 in Toronto in December and bluemouth is also throwing a “Happy Hour” Fundraiser at Musideum on Thursday, December 13th from 5.30-7.30pm. Come on out and support us! Musideum is an incredible space located inside the 401 Richmond Street building at Richmond and Spadina. We will share some of our past work, and some new work too. Apart from that we have a few more presentations of DANCE MARATHON lined up for 2013, including the National Arts Centre in June as part of the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa.

Meara Tubman-Broeren & Ciara Adams on set

There are 2 public performances of Theatre Gargantua’s The Sacrifice Zone coming up this Friday and Saturday at 8pm in Factory Theatre’s Studio. The piece is Associate Produced by Praxis’ own Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose. Tickets are available here.

Ciara Adams has been co-artistic director of interdisciplinary collective bluemouth inc. since 2009; she has worked with the collective since 2003. An associate artist since 2003 Ciara has developed and performed in four of Theatre Gargantua’s cycles. Ciara is also a musician who has released two albums to date. She teaches voice from her home studio in Toronto, and she is a mentor artist educator with the Royal Conservatory of Music’s LTTA program.

Meara Tubman-Broeren is an emerging creator, director, and producer of new work. As well as her Artistic Internship with Theatre Gargantua, she is currently the Administration and Documentation Intern for the Rhubarb Festival 2013. Upcoming she is producing The Seagull in Four Movements, a contemporary adaption of Chekhov’s The Seagull set and performed in a Toronto bar, as well as developing and directing a new work for the Paprika Festival’s Olde Spice program.

Theatre Gargantua’s Internship Program is designed to provide an opportunity for emerging artists to expand their skills and experience through observing and participating in Theatre Gargantua’s creation cycle. Interns participate in all rehearsals and creative meetings, while simultaneously assisting in areas of production and administration. This program allows interns to develop new skills useful in future artistic and producing endeavors.

~ All images by Michael Cooper

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