This week is very special to everybody at the office, since our Youth Program Manager and dear friend, Robert Leveroos, is presenting a show of his creation as part of the rEvolver Theatre Festival. Woven is a micro-performance that links theatre and comic-book art in the most creative way. It might remind you of a board game, where a cast of characters are evolving and thrown together in a shifting arena to find their way through a series of quests. The show talks about the perils of growing up and growing old. We got a chance to catch up with Robert Leveroos to get some insights into his work and also to understand the inspirations behind his new piece.
Can you tell us about your background?
I am a theatre maker, performer, and insatiable tinkerer on all things I can build with my hands. I grew up in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota working with a theatre company for young audiences ( The Children’s Theatre Company). They are known for their imaginative productions translating beloved storybooks to the stage. I loved the ingenuity they used to bring these stories to life. It sparked my imagination and I’ve been interested in creating theatrical worlds ever since. I studied at The National Theatre School of Canada and moved to Vancouver nearly four years ago. I am so happy to have found a home here, I absolutely love the arts community and the incredible talent and generousity this city holds.
We know that Woven links theatre with book art, can you tell us a little bit more about your inspiration and the reason why you decided to connect these two art forms?
Woven is a choose-your-own-adventure book that draws from childhood fears and transforms from telling to telling in the same way as spoken folktales. They’re made new by every single person who tells them.
While theatre and book arts may seem very different, there is quite a bit of a crossover. Theatre relies on a connection between performer and audience and has the power to tell stories through live imagery. Books must actively engage their audience by getting them to turn pages; a bookmaker can craft the way a story unfolds but it’s not until the reader turns the pages that the story becomes real. While illustrating stories, I often develop scenes as animated sequences, so this project felt like a natural progression. I set out to create a performable book, but I wanted it to be something that the audience gets to be part of creating. Woven is a living, breathing book. It’s designed to spark ideas in participants and the project itself is then fueled by these ideas. It continues to grow from everyone who plays along. It’s a big ol’ snowball that grows the more it’s played.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I was always mesmerized by the folktale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, where a young heroine is taken away from her family by a polar bear to live in a mountain. When the bear is revealed to be a prince in disguise, she is sent on a harrowing journey to the far reaches of the world, traveling by each of the four winds to save him. The imagery in the story has always stuck with me, as well as the iconic treasures: the golden apple, the magic scissors, and the cup that never runs dry. I’m fascinated by folktales and could explore their wild and sometimes ridiculous concoctions forever. The polar bear prince holds a special place for me, especially these days as we’re watching them disappear.
This is your second year presenting a show with the rEvolver Theatre Festival, how does your show relate to the vision of rEvolver?
rEvolver is fantastic. rEvolver is a great exploration of new theatre and new voices. There is a huge range of style and genre. Something I found pretty rewarding while attending last year, was discovering the various ways these works related to one another. Sometimes pieces will ask similar questions in subject matter but are presented in vastly different ways. This year, I see a thread running through the program, many artists exploring engagement, whether it’s running around the neighborhood with Superman, or going online with Brief Encounters. And other shows that allow the audience to direct where the show goes, as in Off Key: An Improvised Musical. We’re all looking at new ways to make a connection.
Can you describe for us what a micro-performance is, and the kind of audience that would enjoy this production?
A micro-performance exists in many forms, but the underlying similarity is that it’s personalized for each audience member. It does something that you can’t do by performing to a wall of audience in a big dark theatre. Woven demands an intimate space. The audience is integral to deciding where the story goes. It’s a small audience because people need to be close, so they can get their noses right up into the book and enjoy all the details. You just can’t do that in a large theatre.
This piece is great for anyone interested in getting creative, being a little silly for 20 minutes, and allowing their brain to work in a way it’s not usually asked to work while at the theatre. Come be part of the storytelling, I want people to get in there and play along.
Woven runs May 14, 16, and 17 at The Cultch. Attendance is by donation at the door. Show runs approximately every 30 minutes, from 7 pm to 10 pm on May 14&16 and from 3 pm to 9 pm on May 17. Sign up for a timeslot at the info table in the lobby. Due to limited seating we ask that you arrive 15 minutes early for your showtime.