Theatre for life

Vancouver company Theatre for Living encourages audience participation

Theatre for Living artistic and managing director David Diamond takes questions from the audience during his company's presentation of Two Degrees of Fear and Desire.

One of the first things David Diamond plans to ask Victoria audience members attending the Theatre for Living event is, “How many people are here to see a play?”

You see, this is not your traditional theatre form. There are no actors, no script. It’s kind theatre from the inside out.

Corporations in Our Heads, the latest offering from Diamond’s socially and psychologically tuned-in company, encourages people in the audience to share stories of how corporate messaging affects the way they live their lives, or how they feel about themselves. From there, they or others in the crowd get up and act out those messages in often-hilarious improvisational style.

“But it isn’t only about consuming,” Diamond says. “At the heart of it, it’s about the messages from corporations that affect our relationships with ourselves and others, because that’s what drives everything else.”

Diamond doesn’t see consumption as the great evil, more so over-consumption.

“Our role here isn’t just to empty the cabinet,” he says, speaking metaphorically of humans’ role on this planet. “But the messages we get about consumption lead us to empty the cabinet.”

Theatre for Living was founded in Vancouver as Headlines Theatre in 1981 by a group of politically active artists including Diamond, who became artistic director in 1984. It evolved from Brazilian director Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, which used theatre to get discussions going about local issues of importance and has become an international organization.

“Originally the idea (for our company) was to expose the headlines that were out there, but the nature of the work really shifted to the communities,” Diamond says. “It really is more about (local) dialogue than saying ‘here’s the monster to defeat.’”

Diamond and company had success with a previous participatory production, Two Degrees of Fear and Desire, in which audience members spoke about the barriers to them taking action on global warming.

While the subject matter can be very personal and serious, in the end, these community events are still about entertainment and being creative.

“We are actually there to engage in art making,” Diamond says. “It’s called Theatre for Living, not lecture for living. Part of this is a recognition that all of us are artists; all of us have lives valuable enough to make theatre about.”

The Corporations in Our Heads tour comes to the University of Victoria’s David Lam Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m., and First Metropolitan United Church, 932 Balmoral Rd. at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19. Admission is by donation.

For more information about Theatre for Living, visit headlinestheatre.com.

 

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