As we all recover from midterms, it is heartening to hear about what Dal graduates (you’ll get there too one day!) are up to in the Halifax area. Zuppa Theatre Company is a perfect
example because all of its core members - Ben Stone, Susan Leblanc-Crawford, and Alex McLean - along with many of its collaborators, are all graduates of Dalhousie University.
Zuppa Theatre Co. just returned from Cardiff, Wales where it premiered its new
show Five Easy Steps (to the end of the World) to appreciative audiences. Now back in Halifax they have set up camp in the Historic Farmer’s Market (the Alexander Keith’s Brewery building) to present their latest show to local fans. The team ended up at the market after what Sue Leblanc-Crawford calls a “mad space hunt.” They looked all over the city for a nontraditional theatre space that would suit their show’s style. The stone walls, low ceiling, bunker-like atmosphere of the historical building’s basement make it the perfect performance spot for Five Easy Steps, which takes place in a cluttered pawnshop basement.
The new production takes on hot subject matter - the end of the world. In recent years we
have seen Hollywood jump on the apocalyptic bandwagon with blockbusters like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. Ben Stone admits it's hard to ignore all the inspiration regarding this
topic: the recent economic crisis, 2012 predictions based on the ending of the Mayan calendar, environmental disaster and climate change are just a few examples.
Five Easy Steps centres around three friends who have gathered together on the night
before the end of the world to sing, dance and reflect on the past. The show does not dwell on
why the world is ending, in fact “the end of the world” in this context is not necessarily the end of human existence. Ms. Leblanc-Crawford describes it more as “the end of the world as we have known it.”
Mr. Stone adds “The experience for the audience is like being at a party where you don’t know
anyone and catching snippets of a stranger’s life as you listen to them discuss old times.”
The show is an original work, as are all of Zuppa’s genre-defying productions. The piece
actually started out as a 20-minute dance that grew into a play through Zuppa’s uniquely
collaborative create-as-you-go process, which relies on improvisation and the artist’s intuition.
Though the original music is an integral part of the production, Ms. Leblanc-Crawford would not classify the show as a "musical." “In a musical, the songs are used to propel the plot forward,” she explains, “whereas in our show there is a lot of instrumental music that weaves through and complements the story.”
Dal grads on the team
The Zuppa team behind Five Easy Steps includes grads from all divisions of Dalhousie’s
Theatre Department: acting, theatre studies, technical scenography, and costume studies. The show’s original music was composed by David Christensen - a graduate of (you guessed it) Dal’s Department of Music - in collaboration with local musician Jason MacIsaac.
Five Easy Steps cast member Sue Leblanc-Crawford (acting grad) and costume designer
Leesa Hamilton (costume studies grad) have both returned to Dal as part-time faculty in their
respective areas. The Zuppa Theatre Co. was also brought in to guest direct the first show of the DalTheatre season last year, The Fairy of the Lake.
Zuppa Theatre loves working with students (they run a workshop for students and professionals during February break), and love having them as audience. For their upcoming run of Five Easy Steps (to the end of the world) they are offering lots of student-budget-friendly ticket deals, including a pay-what-you-can performance Tuesday, Oct. 26, $15 preview performances Wednesday, Oct. 27 and Thursday, Oct. 28, and $20 student tickets (regular $25) throughout the run. Not to mention, if you wear a costume on Halloween weekend (Oct. 30 or 31) you will receive a $5 discount on your ticket - a great way for retired trick-or-treaters (I know it’s hard to let go) to get in the spirit!
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