Unmasking The Future

Revealing New Works in Development

February 6, 2020 – 4pm PT

Watch the Post-Show Talkback with Carmen and Jonathon.

Join Electric Company Core Artists Carmen Aguirre and Jonathon Young as they reveal works in development, sharing theatrical experiments, staged readings, and insights on their new processes, which will culminate on stage beginning again in 2022. 

Following the showing, join the Artists and ask your questions in an interactive discussion about the work, inspirations, and future speculations not only for Electric Company, but for the craft and sector as the world emerges from the pandemic.

Approximately 40 minutes including talkback.

An Undeveloped Sound

Jonathon Young

Over the past decade, Electric Company has evolved in ways we couldn’t have imagined when we began. While I still consider the company my creative home, I love that I can’t exactly define the nature of its work, nor predict where it’s heading. And I love that the new model is designed for that evolution to continue.

Coincidentally, my next work, loosely inspired by Goethe’s Faust, is about endless development and the desire for a sense of permanence and place in the ever changing world.

When we meet Faust, in the opening scenes of Goethe’s cosmic drama, he’s on the verge of giving up entirely and ending it for good. He’s exhausted, embittered, and alienated from the world; “And so, for me existence is a burden, death to be welcomed, and this life detested.” The wager with Mephistopheles actually saves Faust from this fate, granting him renewed strength and vivacity to experience life in a state of unceasing activity and perpetual growth. As long as he retains a glimmer of curiosity to live fully in the “whirl of eventful existence,” he can escape the hellish nihilism the devil represents.

But I want to move away from the traditional image of Faust as a wise and learned scholar, weary from a surfeit of academic knowledge.  Instead, I propose a group of “ordinary” and “unaccomplished” Fausts, grappling with the ageless and essential Faustian questions: Where do I find the strength to continue to learn, to keep up with constant change?  How do I live fully? What will sustain my interest in life?

With this as a starting point, I’ve begun building a premise about a small town on the shores of an ocean sound. When a mysterious campaign arrives to develop the sound, a group of unlikely candidates are hired as spokespeople. Oddly, given their job title, each of them has some personal issues in common: they struggle to communicate, they’re isolated and directionless, and spend a fair amount of time considering choosing Nothing over Something.

Why have they been chosen? How could these depressed voices possibly develop an ocean sound? What potential is hidden beneath their banal, everyday exchanges? What first appears to be a mundane, straightforward job, becomes a kind of language experiment, a conjuring act.

As I write, my approach has been to think of language, or perhaps an innate verbal impulse, as the Faustian force within these spokespeople. The endless striving to seek connection, to understand each other and be understood, the quest against all odds to say what can’t be said.  Perhaps, if those clear passages are delivered, and the words put into action, “a living, lasting good could come of those words. A broad sound, a shared sound, open and full.”

Fire Never Dies

Carmen Aguirre

In my next play, I am tackling questions around the tension between art and revolution by excavating the life and art of Tina Modotti, and, in so doing, examining our own lives through hers.

In its seed stage of development, the as-yet-untitled Tina Modotti Project has involved a deep-dive into the world of this extraordinary Italian photographer and revolutionary whose artwork thrived in Mexico City in the 1920s. There, she was part of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s inner circle of artists and communists. She photographed for seven years and abandoned her artistic life to join the anti-fascist struggle in Europe, running the Red Aid hospital in Madrid during the Spanish civil war. Raised in a working-class family of union organizers, her legacy is one of complete dedication to the cause of justice and equality, and the four hundred photographs she left behind. 

She struggled to reconcile her artistic life with her political commitment; it is this conflict that I am most interested in probing. This past November, Electric Company had an initial two-week workshop, where a possible structure for the piece started to take shape. Two days of that workshop were spent experimenting with projected photographs as backdrops, actors engaging with the projections, live photography, and live video. 

Electric Company continues to explore and create new work that mines compelling content and pushes aesthetic boundaries. The Tina Modotti Project furthers the journey that the company has been on for the last twenty-five years.

Produced in association with Theatre Replacement’s PushOff and Progress Lab’s PL Presents series.

Electric Company Theatre is the creative home of four Canadian theatre Artists: best selling author/playwright Carmen Aguirre, Siminovitch Prize winning director Kim Collier, Governor General’s award winning playwright Kevin Kerr and Olivier Award winning playwright/actor Jonathon Young. Recognized for creating rich and adventurous original work, the company has taken to major stages across North America and beyond. With 26 original productions to date, ranging  from intimate, site specific to large scale, past works include Anywhere But Here, Bettroffenheit, All the Way Home, Tear the Curtain, the feature film The Score, Studies in Motion, and No Exit.

Most recently, the company was selected as one of 12 groups from across Canada to create  new large- scale works for live audiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic, as part of the National Arts Centre’s Grand Acts of Theatre. Reframed was filmed live in front of an audience, and released online in 2021.

Reframed is an examination of online outrage and divisiveness, propelled and exasperated by social media algorithms fueling the escalating social media discourse of our times. Bringing physical expression to facebook shorthand and emojis, Reframed asks the question “How do we engage?”.