In the theatre world, it is perfectly plausible to pin the tale on a town.
A small group of actors, directors and technicians is in Prince George this week, and they will be here for the next couple of weeks gathering local impressions, conducting a heavy schedule of interviews, touring streets and buildings and learning the area's history. They will compile their findings and feelings into a set of podcasts and they will perform a final production for the public. It is called Tale Of A Town, the Prince George edition.
Tale Of A Town has already been done in every province of Canada since its launch in 2014, with the far north next on the schedule of Fixt Point Theatre Company. This tour was built in collaboration with the National Arts Centre Of Canada as a multi-media monument to Canada's 150th birthday coming up in 2017.
Theatre North West contacted the wandering show producers about coming to Prince George.
"They are doing such important work to document the towns they visit, and their process of gathering information and reflecting it back to the public, through performance and through recordings, is a unique gift to any community," said TNW's artistic director Jack Grinhaus. "I saw a great opportunity to do something for our Prince George audience. It is a performance unlike any other, and it puts Prince George into this national context they are building. We are just coming out of TNW's 20th anniversary, we are just coming out of Prince George's 100th anniversary, so what better time to have our story told, and take an artistic look at ourselves?"
The process began on Sunday when the Fixt Point crew arrived in P.G. They started by taking in the Super Bowl party at Coach's Corner, getting a look at the grassroots public in a social environment. Then on Monday they set up a recording studio at the Ramada Hotel and began meeting with local people who know the area well.
There are also open spots in their interview schedule anyone can sign up for (while spaces are available).
They also met with The Exploration Place for a look into the past, and went for a visit to emblematic local businesses like Northern Hardware and Books & Company. They have already gleaned downtown history like the Shasta Restaurant and Other Art Caf and Morrison's Menswear that are no more, and the knowledge about the forced expulsion of the Lheidli T'enneh people from what is now downtown but the modern momentum towards reconciliation of that historic wrong.
"In their own words: that is the important part," said Katie Swift, one of the leaders of the Prince George exercise. "Anyone can read a book or get written accounts of a place, and those are important, but you really get a true feel for a place when you hear stories collected from actual people telling their own version of a place. When you collect those voices and look for connection points, it takes it to a whole new level. We are so lucky to get to do that in Canadian towns, and now we are deep into Prince George."
The final performance they construct from the research will unfold a few ways. There will be recordings to hear, via headphones provided at the event, there will be additional artistic contributions (those change drastically from town to town, from shadow puppets to photos to sculptures and anything that presents itself as helpful to the storytelling), and there will be acting components that weave the local voices into a script that gets acted.
"We always feel like we can't wait to see the public's reaction to the final performance," Swift said. "It's a free show, but you do have to book your spot because. Everyone has to have their own set of headphones so space is limited that way."
The Prince George showdates are March 4 to 6 (eight shows, total) at a space they are converting just for this purpose within the Ramada Hotel complex, adding another layer of connection to the downtown the show is emphasizing.
"There is no better way to get to know a community than through the eyes of its own citizens. We feel a lot of pride in people around here, people are very proud of this place, and that really rings through to us," Swift said. "We get to go to places for Tale Of A Town we would never normally get the opportunity to go otherwise, and when you get to experience a place that has such pride in itself, and loves to tell its stories, even the stuff that isn't all positive, you can't help but feel the honour of being let in on that."
For more information, call TNW at 250-563-6969 or log onto the ticket purchase website at www.toatpg.eventbrite.ca.