Take a road trip across Canada in this new play, now on stage in Toronto
On Saturday, I saw The Tale of a Town – Canada at Theatre Passe Muraille. It was a relaxed performance, the first one I’ve been to. More about that later.
In 2014, husband and wife team Lisa Marie DiLiberto and Charles Ketchabaw set off on a series of road trips with their Storymobile (a portable recording studio) to visit all 10 provinces and three territories. Along the way, they interviewed around 3000 people about their towns and their memories. The Tale of a Town – Canada is the result.
It’s a huge undertaking. Maybe too big to condense into one show, even one that lasted two and a half hours. The piece is performed by DiLiberto and Ketchabaw, although DiLiberto is the main performer. There’s also a band and a choir.
At the back of the stage, there’s a table with models of buildings on it. Kind of like the little buildings in a train set, but a bit bigger. Above that, there’s a large screen. In front of it is another table and a small stand with a laptop on it.
DiLiberto tells the story of their road trips, some of the towns they stopped in and some of the people they talked to. For a lot of it, she stands behind the front table and uses the models from the back table, as well as other props to illustrate what she’s saying. Ketchabaw videos it and projects it on to the screen.
I loved that about the piece. It was such a combination of ‘high tech/low tech’. The models were made of cardboard and some of them were different on each of four sides. Animation consisted of DiLiberto pulling a strip of hand drawn pictures through a slit in a box. They traced their route by pushing a little car pulling a trailer along a map of Canada. It was actually a lot more visually interesting than a series of video clips would have been.
Ketchabaw and DiLiberto have done a terrific job of keeping the ‘action’ varied in order to hold the audience’s attention. DiLiberto sang and danced as well as telling the story. The band played and sang. The choir (Small Time Choir) sang from the balcony and from the stage. In one terrific, and noisy, segment, they came down from the balcony, went onto the stage, exited through one door, came back in through another door, and went back up to the balcony.
There were so many things I liked about the production. But, that being said… It just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t sure whether it was a show about the road trip or a show about the people they met. I would have liked to hear more from the people they interviewed. I think it would work better as two shows: one that focuses on the trip itself, and one that focuses on the people and the interviews.
I said earlier that this was a relaxed performance. I think that everything I’ve read about relaxed performances states or implies that they are for people with autism spectrum disorder. This seems far too limiting to me. They also make theatre accessible to people who find the rules of theatre-going constraining or intimidating; things like being quiet, not moving or fidgeting, or not leaving and then coming back.
Those constraints are removed. The house lights stay up at a low level. Before the performance, the players are introduced and the audience is told of any loud noises and when they will happen. They are also told that it’s fine to leave if they need to and that they can come back.
It was great. It would be perfect for my six-year-old grandson who has always found theatre a bit overwhelming.
Back to The Tale of a Town – Canada. There is one performance left, a matinee on Sunday. Just because it didn’t resonate with me doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it. As I said, there was a lot that I loved about the production.
- The Tale of a Town – Canada is playing until December 17 at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Show time Sunday December 17 at 2:00pm
- Tickets PWYC at the door
Photo of Lisa Marie DiLiberto and Charles Ketchabaw by Bill Braden