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October 24, 2002 Theatre students make their own real-world experience



Students in the latest production by Soulfishing. From top to bottom, Graham Cuthbertson, Carey Dodge, Ion Ivanovici, Mindy Parfitt and Michelle Sutcliffe.


Photo by Andrea Winkler

by Nora Gombos

The unsuspecting theatre audience was directed onto what resembled a train platform to watch Soulfishing’s original production One Small Step Sideways at Hors Bord on St. Laurent Blvd. last Wednesday.

The independent theatre company Soulfishing was founded by Mindy Parfitt, Carol Hodge and Paula Dawson in 2001 while they were all completing their BFA specializing in theatre at Concordia. One Small Step Sideways is the company’s third production.

“It’s a play about investigating our perspectives and ideas by stepping sideways and looking in. It addresses our desires and our aspirations. Are we moving too fast to keep up with ourselves? Where is the line between reality and dream?” asked Parfitt, who also acts in the play.

The production team of 17 people includes many Concordia alumni and students, but also Concordia staff. Ana Cappelluto, an associate professor at Concordia, is responsible for the show’s innovative design.

But even with the creative expertise of a talented team, one of the greatest challenges for an independent theatre company like Soulfishing is to get funding. “To gather enough funds to pay the artists, to construct and implement a cohesive promotional plan and to have sufficient resources for high production values is a challenge,” Parfitt said.

Though Parfitt explained that making a living of independent theatre in Montreal is difficult, she also said that it is young companies like Soulfishing who are “trying to broaden the landscape of anglophone theatre in Montreal and make it an economically viable career.”

The effort to put English theatre on the map in Montreal is supported by Renegade Productions, another independent theatre company initiated by Concordia students. Jory Berger and Manuel Verreydt, both currently in their fourth year at Concordia, also decided to take matters into their own hands.

“At the end of our second year, I decided to branch out of Concordia, to make work for myself, because I didn’t want to depend on the program for my success in the future,” Berger said. “I had seen a lot of people who had done the Theatre Department’s main stage shows graduate not knowing what to do with themselves, having had no experience with the outside theatre community.”

Though they will have to worry about funding and rehearsal space once they graduate, they can rely on the Theatre Department for support at the moment. “The great thing about the department is that you can do the bare minimum, or you can take advantage of everything they offer. They’ve all been a great help,” Berger said.

Their next show, Y-Connection Two, opens on Feb. 7. The production comprises an original piece called The Quick and the Fool, and the play Three in the Back, Two in the Head,” by Jason Sherman.

“I think that almost all students try to get involved in outside projects in order to practice what they are learning, though not all of them start companies to do so,” said Rebecca Doll, the Theatre Department’s Interim Facilities Director. She added that one-off shows are commonplace. “Many different things conspire against independent theatre artists succeeding,” Doll explained.

“Most people who work in theatre are independent contractors, self-employed and living from contract to contract. People who start companies and take on the responsibility for paying the rest of the gang on top of all the expenses are exercising a courage that few people have.”

However, Doll also said that despite the hardships independent companies have to overcome to survive, several companies started by Concordia students or staff over the past few years are still up and running.

In addition to Soulfishing and Renegade Productions, Doll mentioned Hudson Village Theatre, Dunya Teesri Theatre and the soon-to-be-unveiled Temenos Theatre, which held a launch party last night in Mile End.

One Small Step Sideways runs at Hors Bord, 3655 St. Laurent, on Wednesdays to Saturdays from January 22 to February 2. Y-connections Two runs February 7-9 and February 14-16 at Studio 303, 372 St. Catherine W.

Another current Concordia-connected production is Still Once, written by Thomas Morison of the English department. Harry Standjofski, also of the English department, is the lead actor. Still Once will play from Feb. 12- March 2 at Théâtre La Chapelle, 3700 St. Dominique. Call 843-7738 for more information.