Fall for Arts Kickoff Week is upon us! As part of the jam-packed week of arts, culture, and heritage events, the Point Artist-Run Centre – one of Whistler’s favourite cultural hot spots – brings its original theatre piece, All Relative: A Space Time Odyssey, from the 2018 Flag Stop Theatre & Arts Festival to the Maury Young Arts Centre on September 19 and 20.
The locally-written story by Brandon Barrett and Holly Clark features a cast of talented local actors, and is directed by the one and only Angie Nolan (Whistler’s 2018 Champion of the Arts award winner).
Arts Whistler’s Kim Maitland caught up with Brandon to chat about his craft and the live theatre experience that you don’t want to miss!
Brandon, who are you and what do you do? Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been a staff writer for Pique Newsmagazine since 2013, and features editor since last year. It’s a taxing, high-stress job, but one that I feel honoured to do. Although I’m a self-admitted news junkie, the stories I love to chase the most tend to veer towards the more quirky side of things. The weirder the better. Some of my favourites include a story I did for The Whistler Question about several reported ghost sightings over the years in the building that now houses Creekbread, a deep dive into the lives of sasquatch hunters, and an oral history of Whistler’s most infamous historical image, the, uh, revealing Toad Hall poster from 1973.
All Relative: A Space Time Odyssey.You describe as “A motley crew of oddballs descends on an Illinois motel for the annual International Conference on Time Travel — only to have their beliefs shaken to the core by a mysterious visitor. With a mixture of witty and heartfelt performances, this modern, satirical spin on a common sci-fi trope takes a closer look at the subculture of time-travel believers, what keeps them believing, and most importantly, whether any of it really matters.”
Why this topic? What drove you to write about this specially?
It was kind of funny how it all came together. Stephen Vogler, director of The Point Artist-Run Centre, approached me about submitting a script for the Flag Stop Theatre & Arts Festival, which is one of my favourite events in town and where I’ve had the privilege of performing many times and premiered my first play back in 2016. It was a fairly quick turnaround, and I didn’t have any fresh ideas on the go. But at that time, I had just read this interesting article about this growing online subculture of people who claimed to be time travellers from the future. I went down a YouTube rabbit hole, as I sometimes do, and discovered this whole cottage industry of people making videos purporting to bring important messages from, like, 500 years in the future—and the internet just eats it up! I mean, some of these videos have racked up millions upon million of views, so I started to wonder what the appeal was. Why do so many people gravitate to the concept of time travel when there is so much evidence to disprove it?
Sci-fi sounds like an interest of yours? Did any specific films, comics, novels influence you growing up?
To be honest, I don’t consider myself a sci-fi fanatic or anything. I love the writing of Philip K. Dick, who many consider to be the father of modern science-fiction, so I would say he was an indirect inspiration. I also read James Gleick’s fantastic Time Travel: A History, which delves into the origins of the concept of time travel and its depiction in literature and science over the years.
Usually the play is only performed once at the Flag Stop, but this year the show is coming back for two nights of performances September 19 and 20 in the theatre at Maury Yong Arts Centre. So much work goes into this, it’s nice that more people will have a chance to see the play. How do you guys feel about putting on another couple nights of shows?
I’m so humbled to be given the opportunity to put my work on at Maury Young. It’s a place I’ve gotten to perform as an actor before, so to have the chance to see my own writing brought to life there, is incredible. It feels like home to me, so I can’t be more grateful to Arts Whistler for taking a chance on it. I know the cast and our fearless director, Angie Nolan, relish the opportunity to put this production on in a more traditional theatrical setting.
I’ve heard there’s some real standout performances and acting by some local talents. Who are the actors?
I don’t think the actors can be credited enough. The script asks a lot of them: it’s feature length, with tons of dialogue, and the tone shifts from comedy to sci-fi to melodrama pretty regularly. I’m so grateful to them for really committing to this story and bringing a piece of themselves to it. The cast features Raquel Christensen, Luke Brooks, Kate Byrne, Linda Epp, Chris Quinlan, Louise Robinson, Dea Lloyd, Tara Bowland, and myself.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our director, Angie Nolan. Her experience combined with her seemingly endless supply of empathy means that we’re not just memorizing lines, but actually going on this journey alongside the characters.
Venues are important to performances and The Point’s floating stage is such a unique place to put on a show. How do you think moving to a more traditionally theatre set up affect the show?
I think it will lend a completely different feel to the performance. I absolutely love the unique setting and breathtaking backdrop of the Flag Stop’s floating stage, but it presents some real challenges. Performing in the elements means that actors often have to be as loud as possible so they can be heard over the wind, so I feel the Maury Young shows will really benefit the quieter moments of the play. The subtle nuances of an actor’s performance should really shine through.
We’re really excited to see the performances, for those who don’t know whether community theatre is really their thing, tell us why people should come out to see the show? (Pitch time!)
I hesitate to even use the term ‘community theatre’ because I think people can associate it with their crappy high-school play or an amateur Shakespeare production or something like that. All Relative is not that. It’s a wacky sci-fi concept treated in a naturalistic way that is at turns funny, sorrowful and provides some insight into how we spend this precious commodity called time. I hope that it offers everyone in the audience something to enjoy.
I think it’s important to note as well that these actors, we’re not just castmates, we’re friends. We’ve been working together in some capacity for a while now, and that familiarity and comfort with each other is really evident in the final performance.
Alright, gotta ask…. We heard about your performance at Drunken History with Isobel MacLaurin. I had thought you were more of a behind-the-scenes guy, but you really shone in that one and got right into character! For those who didn’t hear about it, tell us a little about your drunken history performance, why it matters…and if we can expect more drunken educational videos from you. Anywhere we can see that video?
Oh boy. That was an interesting night. Producer Michele Bush had the idea to do a Whistler play on the popular Comedy Central show Drunk History, which gets comedians and actors to recount a historical event while completely and embarrasingly wasted. I got to talk about one of Whistler’s more interesting historical characters, trapper, restaurateur, and possible murderer, John Millar. And let me tell you, I really committed to the ‘drunk’ part of Drunk History, downing almost an entire bottle of Canadian Club in a very short period. I’m not ashamed to admit that I threw up. That is the kind of commitment to a performance that I bring to the table.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I have to shout-out my co-writer and partner in crime, Holly Clark. Besides being one of my oldest and closest friends, she is a fabulously talented writer in her own right, and without a doubt wrote the most beautiful lines in the play. I am deeply indebted to her and would be remiss if I failed to mention her contributions.
Find out more about All Relative: A Space Time Odyssey