This one goes to eleven: Spectral Theatre Society

I wish a stage company like the Spectral Theatre Society on every city. Operating from their theatrical lair deep in the heart of the Downtown East Side, these guys wear their love for genre fiction on their sleeve, and produce consistent, well branded work. You always know the experience in store for you at a Spectral Show.  They represent fun combined with a relentless work ethic. Plus they have awesome merch. Seriously, read the Teddy Bear.

This interview also represents a first for This One Goes to Eleven: our first group interview. When I asked to interview company member Simon C. Hussey he responded with the whole crew. Spectral’s interviewees are Simon, Michael Methot and Michael Cope, and founding members Desmond Arthur Hussey and Blake Drezet.

Take it away boys…

Michael Cope, Simon C. Hussey, Desmond Hussey and Blake Drezet.

Michael Cope, Simon C. Hussey, Desmond Hussey and Blake Drezet.

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Thirsty – SCH

2. In whatever number of words you see fit, describe the present condition
of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Acknowledged professionals spending time with other unacknowledged professionals to foster relationships that will benefit the larger community as a whole. Unfortunately, the money aspect all too often intrudes in way that stifles interaction. All levels of grant applications need to broaden their criteria for accepting and issuing funds that only seem to go to established artist or the people who know someone in the system. – MM

Cloistered. A lot of cool stuff but not a lot of chatter. People are doing amazing work all over the city, but there’s a real closed circle within those groups. I think the scene needs to be more welcoming. – MC

On one hand, the Vancouver theatre scene is vainly struggling to maintain its integrity, or dare I say its very existence, by pandering to a generation of theatregoers that are totally uninterested in seeing fresh, new, contemporary theatre, while on the other hand, begging for a handout from Civic, Provincial and/or Federal governments to support whatever theatre, original or otherwise they hope to produce.  Ultimately it is hogtied by beaurocracy and conservative thinking, and lacks the creative edge necessary to produce anything truly outstanding. – DAH

Theatre in Vancouver is on the cusp of a major shift. The big companies are steadily losing steam; the bloated industry built around them unable to support itself without government subsidies and dauntingly high ticket prices.  Smaller, more innovative companies are beginning to rise up and break free of the unionized strangle-hold by working outside established venues to create a new vision of theatre that is innovative, self-supporting, and affordable. – BD

I probably won’t articulate this properly but I’ll give it a stab. Ah…fuck it. If it’s alright, I think I’ll just go ahead and rant. Are we talking about the “scene” or the “market”? If we’re talking about the “scene” then I’m going to say we have a pretty vibrant scene. And by scene I mean a lot of would-be actors, artists, directors and writers, going to classes, hanging out at “industry nights”, wrap parties, auditioning for Bard, Carousel, Arts Club or Playhouse and going to each others shows etc. “Hey Bobby, if you come see my show at the Havana I’ll come see your show at The Beaumont!” “Gosh Sally! Sure thing!”  The “market” however; not so healthy I’d say.  And that environment doesn’t help to foster innovation and cheats the theatre going audience in the long run.  Here we are, a metropolis of some 3 million or so, and we’re only barely able to sustain 4 or 5 major companies.  And if those companies want to sell tickets they’re sort of cornered into presenting the “MOR” or “Top 40” equivalent of what theatre has to offer because that’s apparently what this town wants. If it’s not a name brand they’ll balk. Even still, if you think those companies are sustained by ticket sales alone, think again. Most, if not all of them, are “registered charities”. What’s left for the smaller companies taking chances on little known or original scripts in this town?  I’ll tell ya, squat. This is ironic because it’s small-theatre that’ll save the day in the end; by challenging audience expectations and broadening the audience base with interesting and entertaining theatre that draws neophytes in. We need to demonstrate more effectively and consistently to an ever alienated audience how awesome a theatre-going experience can be. No more baby pabulum folks! Go big or go home!  The future of theatre in this town depends on you! – SCH

3. How do you wish the official definition of the word ‘theatre’ would read?

At present, we’re not interested in drawing theatrical definitions, only expanding them. – BD

4. Describe the target demographic of Spectral.

Theatre for people that hate theatre. In other words, it is a rally call to those who have lost faith in what was once a powerful medium of expression. – DAH

Spectral is primarily focused on producing strange tales rife with audacious spectacle; so our demographic falls within some hazy parameters. We appeal to youth, nerds, horror buffs, curiosity seekers, people who enjoy their theatre bizarre and people who don’t normally like theatre at all. – BD

The defilers of convention.  Anyone that has grown tired of the “same-old, same-old” but at the same time refuses to grow cynical. – SCH

5. What do you feel is key to maintaining a healthy working relationship within an ensemble company?

Communication. Lateral hierarchy. – MM

Spectral has always succeeded in fostering a genuine spirit of community within its cast and crews, and I think this is due to several factors; Love, respect, a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, and a mutual love of the craft is part of that, but also an openness to artistic collaboration. Everyone here is encouraged to express their own creativity within their departments. No one is lording over anyone else. I believe that is a big reason why so many our crews come back to work with us again and again. – BD

6. What is your biggest challenge as a Vancouver theatre artist?

I am loathe to admit it, but it’s the promotion of theatre itself that poses it’s biggest challenge. In a city where there is a hundred events going on any given night, theatre has come to take a back seat to Clubs, live music events and the almighty cinema. Getting the word out to the public about a given show can be an uphill battle and effective advertising is prohibitively expensive, yet it’s clear that theatre must win back its audience or it will only continue to fade into an eccentric conceit of the wealthy few, and for that it must make itself cheaper, more accessible, and a great deal more fun. – BD

Keeping the office clean. – SCH

7. If someone gave you a million dollars to improve the Vancouver theatre scene, how would you spend it?

Easy. Use half of it to build a mid-sized, affordable, multi-use venue. Put the other half in a high interest savings account and hand out no-interest loans to small theatre companies producing innovative, original works. – SCH

8. Who or what are your great influences?

Who: Rod Serling. What: Abstract association and imagination to praise the independent and original concept. – MM

Peter Brook. Ray Bradbury. William Shakespeare. – MC

The have-nots, the pack rats, those who “make-do”, the innovators, the inventors, the thinkers outside the box, the road side prophets, the drunken sages, “the lovers, the dreamers and.” Kermit the frog. – DAH

We have been influenced by weird late-night television, strange old comics, and speculative fiction, as well as creative innovators like Jim Henson, Burtolt Brecht, Eugene Ionesco, and Tim Burton. – BD

EC Comics, Jim Henson, Vincent Price, Billy Van, Weird Circle, Inner Sanctum and Mel Brooks. – SCH

9. Where is the next generation of theatre-goers going to come from?

Massive orbiting clone banks. – SCH

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Have way more than 3 favourites from various genres because theatre is supposed to challenge your emotions and your pre-conceptions on any given subject matter. – MM

The Empty Space, Towards the Poor Theatre, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. – MC

Sam Sheppard, Samuel Beckett and, though not a playwright, a definite inspiration, H. P. Lovecraft. – DAH

An Actor Prepares, Acting: The First Six Lessons, Story (not really about theatre per se). – SCH

Huh? – BD

11. What’s next?

Spectral Theatre’s Late-Night Double Feature (running April through August) followed by A Christmas Carol in December then Dead Ends – VI in 2010.

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