The latest work from Nova Scotia-born playwright Daniel MacIvor and a new musical-theatre hybrid based on the life and music of Halifax songwriter, storyteller, and musician Aquakulture (aka Lance Sampson) are the cornerstones for 2b theatre’s SPRINGboard.
Similar to a previous incarnation, Inside the 2b Studio, from several years ago, 2b’s artistic director Christian Barry and associate artistic director Jacob Sampson (no relation to Lance) say SPRINGboard is not only an opportunity for the award-winning Halifax theatre company to re-engage with audiences after focusing on their hit musical Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story for the past couple of years but also bring them into the creative process.
“[SPRINGboard] is the most obvious way of not only having more regular contact with our audience but getting them more deeply invested in and aware of our ongoing work,” says Barry. “It felt like an opportunity to create a context for an intergenerational conversation about what new playmaking is and was and will be.”
And while McIvor’s Let’s Run Away has already been produced elsewhere, Barry says it is a play that develops with each performance and fits nicely into the SPRINGboard concept. “It provides a different lens on what new work is,” he says.
Coupled with the new musical theatre hybrid The Aquakultre Project, which receives three nights of work-in-progress showings during SPRINGboard, the two shows provide distinct insights into the development process. “One closer to the end of its development cycle and one that is brand new,” says Barry.
Old Stock‘s musical director and collaborator Graham Scott first brought the idea of The Aquakultre Project to 2b theatre.
“Graham is plugged into the music scene here in Halifax, and when we were chatting about what the next piece might be, he said we really needed to talk to Aquakulture,” says Barry. “I already knew who Aquakulture was, but the more we got to know Lance’s story, the more it was clear that he was not only an incredibly dynamic musician with an indefinable list of skills, attributes, and styles, but his story is just inspiring and remarkable and fertile soil for some a music theatre fusion.”
As Sampson took the lead and began working with Aquakulture, it was evident there was something special brewing.
“It sounds hokey and corny, but he’s such a warm and welcoming presence,” says Sampson. “And you want to listen to him tell stories.”
“He has an incredible kind of magnanimous presence and just an ability to bring everybody together,” adds Barry.
Initially looking at a chronological telling of Aquakulture’s story, the team also focused on specific periods in the musician’s life, including his musical journey, meeting his wife and time spent in prison. But it all felt too constrained.
“It feels almost impossible to put it in a box at this point, much like Lance defies description,” says Barry. “He’ll tell one story and we think we know what the play is about, and then he’ll completely shatter it with the next story.”
“That’s exactly what’s so interesting about the man and his art,” adds Sampson.
Barry hopes that the final product will be ready next year. “We’re lucky to have a number of collaborators across the country who are hungry for our next thing,” he says.
In the meantime, SPRINGboard will provide the team with valuable feedback.
“Audiences are going to feel involved; it’s not passive theatre,” says Sampson. “Coming off the last three years, that’s what I missed. I missed that connection; I missed being told a story. And again, not sitting passively in the audience, but feeling like I am part of something, feeling like I’m part of the community.”
“Daniel MacIver is a living legend, and Aquaculture is a living legend that people don’t know is a living legend yet,” adds Barry. “I can’t wait to share the work of these extraordinary artists with audiences. As Jacob said, it will be vital work, alive and present, buzzing with energy, and much more. These stories will fill people up.”
2b theatre presents SPRINGboard at The Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen St, Halifax) through April 23. Visit 2btheatre.com for tickets and information.