Thursday, July 18, 2019

Victoria theatre company puts local talent to use in Constellations

June 24, 2019 by Christine Clark, features writer

Local theatre company hapax theatre—lower case intentional—is named for a linguistic term that dates back to ancient Greece. A “hapax legomenon” is a word that appears only once within a certain context—for example, in a play or an entire body of work. A hapax legomenon can be very mysterious and difficult to interpret, since it appears so rarely.

“My husband has a background in linguistics and I loved the idea of incorporating some of his background into an idea I have about theatre,” says hapax theatre co-founder Heather Jarvie. “When we are in a theatre, that moment only exists once, that audience, that energy, that performance, no matter how many times you try to replicate it, it will never be the same and it’s part of the magic that exists in the theatre.”

Brianna Wiens as Marianne and Brendan Elwell as Roland in Constellations (photo provided).

Jarvie and her husband Chad Laidlaw started the company—then known as Jarvolution Theatre—in 2014, but that wasn’t the beginning of her career. As the child of an artistic family, with a mother who sang opera, jazz, and blues, Jarvie first stepped onto the stage early. 

“My theatre story itself is very long and windy to get to where we are now, but I’ve always been involved in the arts—dance, music, theatre—from a very, very young age,” she says. “I was actually on stage as supernumerary when I was 14 for Pacific Opera Victoria in La traviata.”

As both the co-founder of the company and the director of Constellations, a celebrated play written by English playwright Nick Payne, Jarvie makes room in her work for local, emerging performers and artists.

“It is our mandate to provide opportunities to emerging artists,” says Jarvie. “There’s, unfortunately, a perception for a lot of young artists in this city that you can study here but there’s no work here, that you have to go to Vancouver or to Toronto, and we wanted to encourage people and remind young artists that there are opportunities here.”

Constellations is a two-person show starring Brianna Wiens and Brendan Elwell. Elwell is a recent UVic grad; stage manager Taylor Guidotti and composer and sound artist Aaron Smail both just finished their third year there. Jarvie says that the emerging artists featured in the show are all doing amazing jobs.

“I’m amazed every single day that I get to work with them, the talent and level of expertise and joy that they bring to this project,” she says. “I’m considering myself very lucky to have the chance to work with them.”

Constellations is a rich story of love told through the lens of possibilities; it takes place across the multiverse. In Jarvie’s interpretation, the action plays out over eight scenes—or snapshots, as she calls them. Every snapshot is a revelation in character and sets up a series of potential repercussions, all while exploring a theoretical framework of physics.

Constellations, in a nutshell, is a story about a relationship between Marianne, who is an astrophysicist, and Roland, who is a beekeeper,” says Jarvie. “It seems on the surface that Marianne’s connection to string theory is it, that’s all we get—but the life of a bee, it’s so simple and so perfect that it completely contradicts this possible chaos that exists within string theory.”

Having invested many hours meticulously dissecting all the various possibilities, Jarvie has come to the conclusion that the promise of romantic love might not be the most important part of the play.“While it may present as a love story, it’s about so much more than that,” she says of Constellations. “It’s about how we treat other people. It’s about caring, and compassion and love doesn’t have to mean romantic love. It can be the support you get from a best friend, it can be a kind word or a hand on the shoulder… Sure, it’s a love story, but whether or not that’s romantic or friendship is completely irrelevant, because this is about how they support each other and how they get through these multiverses together.”

8 pm Friday, July 5, Saturday, July 6, Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13
$15, Intrepid Theatre

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