A brand-new theatre company, based in Hazelton and the Kispiox Valley, is pushing the boundaries of experimental theatre in the Northwest.
The Flying Black Theatre Company, founded earlier this year, put on its inaugural event, Gatherings on Birth: a symbolic modification of the land over time at the base of Tenas Mountain August 1.
Sarah Milner, Flying Black founder and director described it as a “site-specific, durational performance,” which involved “a walking journey that used the landscape as a metaphor for birth. This included walking and sound performances, visual installations, food preparation and installation, and refreshments, followed by a meal in the garden.”
One of the visual installations was a piece of plexiglass constructed at the top of the mountain with an outline of the landscape below and an image of a fetus on it.
“You can see the landscape through the image as well as the overlaying fetus and lines of the landscape, so it was inviting that parallel between the landscape of that location and the landscape of body,” she explained.
“We enter into that, so it’s like entering into a painting… so instead of being a two-dimensional experience, it’s a three-dimensional experience.”
Milner is currently halfway through a Masters program in “Directing of Devised and Object Theatre” at DAMU, The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Czech Republic).
She explained the process is to pick a theme, or piece of text or image then gather anything related to it and develop the project based on what they find.
“From there, we look at what we’ve got and start to organize it into chapters, or, it often has its own consciousness,” she said. “We might have an idea of what we think the project will be, but once we start to create it, it will kind of hijack itself.
“For example this project (Gatherings on birth), we thought it was going to be six hours (it was eight), we thought it was going to be a certain way, then just the nature of the people who were there things shifted.”
Reactions to the event were wide-ranging. She said one attendee was initially angry because they were expecting a traditional performance, but instead became a participant in the event.
By the end, though, she said everyone “got it.”
“Somebody actually came up to me in tears afterward saying ‘thank you for inviting us to this first performance, it felt like you shared something significant and it felt like we were part of a birth,’ so that was lovely,” she said.
Even Milner was surprised by the outcome.
“It’s about birth, so it’s never quite what you’re expecting,” she said.
And she was grateful.
“It was a real coming together of community; I was overwhelmed by the amount of generosity and input and care that the community offered,” she said.
The theme of this year’s performance was inspired by the birth of Milner’s own daughter.
Consequently, she doesn’t know when she will get back to her studies.
“That will be dictated by this baby; she just kind of hijacked our life,” Milner said.
In the meantime, Flying Black will be devising its 2020 performance in the coming months.