Rehearsing a piece the size of A Soldier’s Tale presents all kinds of challenges, not the least of which is space. Most theatre companies in Toronto do not have dedicated space, but are dependent on cobbling together rehearsal schedules in a variety of spaces across the city. As a theatre artist, I have rehearsed in buildings with no heat, studios with no access to a bathroom, people’s living rooms, beautiful, equipped spaces which we had to vacate every day at certain time to make way for the next renter, which may be a yoga practice, a bhangra class or an audition.
A Soldier’s Tale is big – thirteen performers onstage – Shawn Kerwin’s set is big, and everything and everyone moves. Signal has managed to secure rehearsal space big enough to contain us all, but we – like our show – move, a lot and often. And the dancers dance, which means sprung floors, or at least forgiving ones.
This adventure in moving takes us all over the city, from the National Ballet School studio to a dance studio up in Thornhill. Two days ago, we battled the snow to our space in Thornhill, most of us arriving late despite leaving home early. Most civilians would have called a snow day, but we were preparing for a showing at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the home of the Canadian Opera Company.
Yesterday, we showed excerpts from both Acts of A Soldier’s Tale in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, to a very full, warm and engaged audience. No costumes, save one, no props, save a pair of army boots and ten chairs rounded up for us by the house Technical Director, scripts in hand, John Gzowski’s music in the air, lighting by the creator, flowing in through the huge glass windows facing Queen Street which frame the astonishing backdrop of the city. It was terrifying because of where we are in the process, and exhilarating because of where we are in the process. During the Question and Answer following the excerpts, audience members asked incisive questions about how we as artists talk about war, and how we address gender politics in our subject matter. Their questions gave us insight into what we are saying with the work.
The staff at the Centre were so welcoming and good-humoured, the showing such a huge success, that would have been enough for one day, and yet, there was more. We ended the day with two hours in the Karen Kain Studio, continuing to work on the second act, solving some staging issues, surrounded by the makeup tables of the opera chorus.