Jacob Zimmer is Talking to Chris Dupuis

I caught up with Small Wooden Shoe Artist Director Jacob Zimmer to chat about Dedicated to the Revolutions, a show he's been working on for over three years which opens at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre this week.

Dedicated to the Revolutions plays March 31st through April 12, 2009 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Produced by Small Wooden Shoe with the assistance of One Yellow Rabbit's High Performance Rodeo and in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

Box Office 416-975-8555
Tickets PWYC - $25 :: Youth / Student tickets $15
Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto

Dedicated to the Revolutions is created by: Frank Cox-O'Connell, Chad Dembski, Ame Henderson, Erika Hennebury, Gillian Lewis, Aimée Dawn Robinson, Trevor Schwellnus, Erin Shields, Evan Webber and Jacob Zimmer

You've been working on this project for over three years now and it's finally coming to fruition. What does this feel like?

Great. Scary.

It’s interesting how things have changed over the three years, both in terms of our taste and interests and the exposure and profile of the work.

But the long development time seems mostly right – there were some gaps that were a bit long and some that were too short – but I think it’s important for me to have a lot of time and a lot of breaks for thinking. Most rehearsal processes don’t have much time for reflection and I think that might be a problem - or at least it would be for me.

There have been a fairly large number of collaborators on this project through its different stages. How do you decide on who to collaborate with and what makes a good collaborator in your mind?

Everyone in this process were people I first saw in other work and then met with and talked. They are all people who make their own work, which is very important for me. And then it’s a matter of creating an interesting and productive rehearsal hall that I believe will lead to an interesting and productive performance.

In terms of what makes a good collaborator - I think generosity and curiosity are vital. It’s a generosity to listen and follow as well as lead and propose - to be able to understand what’s happening and how to contribute to that. Patience and understanding are also very important.

I’ve been absolutely blessed on this project to work with many of my favorite artists in the city who have brought so much to the work.

I'm curious to know in particular about your relationship with your collaborator Trevor Schwellnus; specifically because designers are often the ones who have the least collaborative relationship to a traditional process. Can you talk about how you work together and what your particular process of design is?

The shows take a huge jump once we’re in the world that Trevor creates. They a beautiful and idiosyncratic and perfect for the work.

I trust Trev so much, and he makes proposals for the work in such a great way that we’ve ended up with a pretty unique process. It’s one I’m having a hard time describing. He’s in the room pretty early and has been involved in every show so we can get to the heart of things pretty quickly. We talk about big ideas and overall aesthetic values early and then once we’re in the theatre things just come to life under his eye.

He also brings a lot of thought and contribution to what we do on stage and is often our go to for a “bullshit meter” in terms of science and tech.

And he does amazing things with rope. Other people like tape, he goes with rope.

Some critics (who shall remain nameless) have described your work as "Post Modern". Do you see what you do as part of the Post Modern Period? Why or why not?

I get it, even if I disagree a bit and quibble about the typesetting (“postmodern” v. “post-modern” v. “post modern”.)

The postmodern turn in artistic and intellectual pursuits was vital. Deconstruction, poststructuralism, Critical Theory, and relational theories have been very important to me (and I think the to world.) So I am certainly a child of it.

That being said, I think this work in particular is an attempt to get past some of my issues with the hard lines and to generate proposals and engagement instead of only critique and pulling apart.

Aesthetically I get it too - though again, I think we want to move past some of the trappings (traps.) We avoid irony (we mean what we say, we also mean other things) and think about clarity, humour and pleasure for the audience a bit more then comes to mind with “postmodern theatre.” But again, I have a history with and deep influence from that tradition.

While were on the subject of critics, I've read some writings about your work that, while positive make me feel like the critic "just doesn't get it". What guidelines would you give people writing about your work to understand and talk about it?

I don’t think I can give guidelines. Part of what is nice about Dedicated to the Revolutions is that there are many levels to take the show, different ways to “get it”.

It’s true that some reviews (which are often so short and written so quickly after the show) focus on the humour and songs, and I’m ok with that - or at least I’d rather that then the “you won’t enjoy it, but it’s good for you” reviews. Reviews in this day and age are pointers rather than deep commentary. I’m happy if people show up and have to make up their own minds.

And I think there certainly is a role and a desire for deep commentary - but that requires space and reflection that I don’t feel the print reviewers have - and may mean that that kind of work happens after the show closes.

Maybe the only guideline is to think “What if they meant all of that?”

Song are a very important part of your performances, which is also a commonality in other artists working in a similar style like STO Union. What do you think song brings to the work?

They hold some of the emotional content and some of the humour. They are a different way of thinking through and talking about the issues of the show. And we like singing them and people respond to them – music is nice.

What do you think the 8th Revolution will be? Any sense when it's on the horizon? Is it already happening?

Maybe? Quantum and Nano and Bio tech all seem like “next things” - but I think it’s really hard to predict what will effect our lives and when. These revolutions often took decades to be noticed on a everyday scale.
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Blind Date at Harbourfront Centre by Chris Dupuis

By all accounts it shouldn't work. Mimi a Parisian clown (AKA actor/improviser Rebecca Northan) has been stood up for a blind date and so she turns to the audience to find a guy who can fill the second chair at her cafe table. For the next ninety minutes Mimi and her man play out a series of scenes that follow the course of their first evening together. The potential for something like this to go wrong is huge, but it doesn't. Not even for a second.

Northan is a veteran of Calgary's Loose Moose Theatre which has been spreading its unique brand of improvised performance across the country for the last thirty years. In the hands of an even slightly less deft improviser this show could fall flat on its red-nosed face, but Northan is an auteur of such incredible skill that the work not only sustains itself but exceeds expectations.

The content of the piece varies from night to night, so I can't say exactly what you can expect if you go. However the evening I attended Northan selected a guy who was particularly game--an unemployed recent university graduate named Graham, and during the show she managed to convince him to engage in a prolonged make-out session with her, strip to his underwear, and impregnate her onstage. Knowing how trained performers can be shy about doing this type of thing, it was especially refreshing to see someone with no professional experience throw themselves unsuspectingly into an experience like this.

The piece originally premiered as a ten-minute clown bit in 2007 during the Spiegel Show and Harbourfront Centre Director of Performing Arts Tina Rassmussen convinced Northan to develop the work into a full-length piece. Though it's billed as a clown show and Mimi sports a red nose, Northan's performance is not of the clown variety, at least not in the classic sense. Never once are we asked to laugh at her, but instead we're always laughing along with her, as she pulls trick after trick on her guest. If anyone onstage is a clown, it's her man of the evening, as most of our fun comes from watching him trying to adapt to what is in actuality a pretty strange and nerve-wracking situation. And perhaps the fact that we are not watching a performance, as much as a real person having a real experience in front of us, is what makes Blind Date one of the most engaging evenings I've had in the theatre in a long time.

Blind Date runs at Harbourfront Centre through Saturday March 7th, 2009
Tickets available at 416-973-4000 or through www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage.
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