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Friday, April 19, 2024

Deepwater dives into uncharted waters for playwright Dan Bray

The Villains Theatre presents Deepwater at the Bus Stop Theatre from March 13-17.

Halifax playwright Dan Bray dives into uncharted waters with the premiere of his new play Deepwater, set to be staged by The Villains Theatre at the Bus Stop Theatre in March.

It’s about accepting that things are out of your control, but you still have the power to change and to improve your life. – Dan Bray

Blending elements of a police procedural and “surreal” narrative, Deepwater centers around a police investigator’s quest to unravel the mystery of a missing child in rural Nova Scotia.

Bray describes the play as a journey through memory, exploring themes of grief, parenthood, and loss. “It’s not always told in a linear way,” says Bray. “It’s sometimes dream-like and explores how memory works.”

Eight years in the making, Bray says that the initial spark came from contemplating the aftermath of a tragedy where closure remains elusive. “To me, one of my greatest fears is when something terrible happens, but you never find all the answers,” Bray shares.

Throughout the years, the play evolved, shaped by Bray’s exploration of ambiguity and the complexities of human experience, with the narrative’s nonlinear nature and intentional vagueness posing challenges for the playwright.

“It wasn’t always a police procedural, but I was drawn to this question of how do you live after something happens and you don’t know the whole story,” he explains. “Like what happens if someone disappears and you never find them? How do you continue?”

This premise continued to drive Bray to work on his script, ultimately allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions. “I was interested in writing a mystery that never really wraps up like a Poirot or a Sherlock Holmes mystery,” he says.

As the title may suggest, Bray draws parallels between the struggles of his characters and the ocean’s mysteries. May, the mother of the missing child, is likened to the elusive anglerfish, with its luminescent fin acting as a lure, navigating the darkness of her existence. Meanwhile, her husband’s research on octopuses reflects themes of camouflage, complex relationships, and intelligence mirrored in the play’s narrative.

Deepwater plays The Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax from March 13-17.

Bray emphasizes the collaborative effort behind Deepwater, praising the synergy between the creative team. From a sound design by Jackson Fairfax-Perry to set design by Katrin Whitehead and projection and lighting designs by Mackenzie Cornfield and Vicky Williams, respectively, each element contributes to an immersive theatrical experience.

“They’ve all really been working together in a way that I’ve never experienced in a rehearsal hall to create this sensation when you enter the Bus Stop Theatre,” says Bray. “You’re going to feel like you’re at the bottom of the ocean, and it’s going to be atmospheric, very surreal and spooky.”

A departure for Bray from his usual comedic repertoire, including past plays Zomblet, Madsummer, Knight of the Bat and Knight of the Bat Returns, he is excited for audiences to see a different facet of his writing, underscoring the play’s message of resilience amidst adversity and urging viewers to embrace the power of positive change.

“It also has a moral that I think is really important to people living in this society today where everything feels so bleak and everything feels so pointless,” he says. “It’s about accepting that things are out of your control, but you still have the power to change and to improve your life.”

Premiering at the Bus Stop Theatre in downtown Halifax, Deepwater runs March 13-17. All tickets are pay-what-you-can, and free childcare is available for all performances. Visit tickethalifax.com for tickets and more information.

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