Toronto actor Stephanie Carpanini, above, is treading the boards this week, not in a theatre but in a College Street café where she and a few kindred spirits are staging Were Lovers (December 11 – 15), a compilation of scenes from New York dramatist Charles L. Mee.
Inspired by Mee’s multifarious takes on love, Carpanini stitched the work together then conscripted Rarely Pure Theatre to help her stage the piece at Aziza Café (962 College Street West).
“I’ve had a strong desire to be, not just an actor, but a theatre artist and create my own work,” explains Carpanini. “It’s very hard to be an actor in Toronto. I feel like if you’re not going to get paid, or you’re getting paid very little, you might as well be doing something you’re passionate about.”
Carpanini discovered Mee in New York where she studied Suzuki/Viewpoints movement theory. The writer encourages others to use his work as the basis for new works of their own.
“Pillage the plays,” he writes, “as I have pillaged the structures and contents of the plays of Euripides and Brecht and stuff out of Soap Opera Digest and the evening news and the internet, and build your own, entirely new, piece—and then, please, put your own name to the work that results.”
Carpanini has obliged with Were Lovers. “Mee’s work is universal,” she says, “it speaks to everyone but in particular it spoke to what I was going through at the time and I decided I needed to put on a show that reflected all the different sides of love, not just the beautiful things. Love can be very dysfunctional and there are lots of aspects of it that I still don’t understand myself.”
In Were Lovers, Carpanini and Jeff Hanson play various set of lovers meeting in a café. The audience is seated in the centre of the room with the drama playing out around the edges of the space.
“We considered venues like VideoFag,” says Carpanini, “but because a lot of these scenes take place in cafes I thought why not stage it in a café.”
One problem with such creative staging is that there’s no curtain to draw or lights to dim to indicate scene changes. Carpanini, Hanson and third cast member Christine Carr, will have to rely on minimal props and their own body language to indicate that this set of lovers is different from the previous lovers.
By staging the show in a non-traditional venue Carpanini is hoping to reach people who might not otherwise go to the theatre. The show is pay-what-you-can and is just 75 minutes long so the creators are hoping people will drop in, have a coffee or tea and share the theatrical experience.
“It’s essentially a workshop,” says Carpanini. “And I’m really grateful to Rarely Pure Theatre for helping to enable the project. They’re focused on doing work that’s not necessarily safe so it’s been a good fit.”
WHERE/WHEN: Were Lovers at Aziza Cafe (962 College Street West), December 11 – 15 at 8 pm, $12 advance ($10 students/seniors) or PWYC at the door.