The reigning monarch of the long title is back with a dance theatre season: Toy Guns’s Jake Hastey

Cory Christensen, Christine Lesiak, Fortuitous Endings…. Photo of 2015 production by Marc J. Chalifoux.

By Liz Nicholls. 12thnight.ca

The titles of are a tip-off. They float through the air, free-associating in a long, whimsical, adventurous accumulations. They’re not shackled by mere practical considerations. They’re ample, to say the least. 

The titles of Toys Guns Dance Theatre productions are like the shows themselves that way. Welcome to the mind of Toy Guns director/choreographer/resident muse Jake Hastey.

Hastey opens his new season — Toy Guns’ first full-length season — Thursday at the Westbury Theatre with Fortuitous Endings: What To Do when You Wake Up Drunk In A BBQ Cover In Your Neighbour’s Backyard. Theatre audiences caught a debut glimpse of that intriguingly named piece at Workshop West’s 2015 Canoe Festival.

Hastey’s cast of 10 is divided equally among bona fide actors (Chris Bullough, Christine Lesiak, Corben Kushneryk among them) and professional dancers from across the country. “Two acts, full length, huge conclusion. Thousands of props!”: Hastey laughs a little ruefully — but only a little. He’s in his element.

The innovative dance theatre company Hastey founded, which made its debut in a 2013 workshop of Bright Lights Cold Water, made a startling entrance at the Fringe in 2014 with a pair of  original offerings. Red Wine, French Toast, and the Best Sex You’ve Ever Had was a playful, high-spirited exploration of romantic attraction, an inventive series of couplings and uncouplings. Propylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, Retinol Palmitate, And Other Words I Don’t Understand, Like Love had a typical Hastey sense of scale: it featured 11 actor/dancers, an opera singer, a storyteller, and 300 pillows (not to mention its own pillow sponsor). Typically, Hastey and co devised such promotional gambits as join-in pillow fights outside the Fringe box office.  

Fortuitous Endings: What To Do When You Wake Up Drunk In A BBQ Cover In Your Neighbour’s Backyard — a title with its own come-hither array of narrative possibilities — is, says Hastey, “the artists’ favourite” among his Toy Guns show. Why? “This one reached a different maturity and depth,” he muses. “An intensity, a cohesiveness of vision, I think…. It was so resonant with the audience from the start.”

“In the others, the visuals take centre stage…. This one really highlights the performers. The base level for every one of them is so high!”

Photoof 2015 production of Fortuitous Endings…. by Marc J. Chalifoux.

“At its core,” says the ebullient dance theatre auteur, “it’s got a five-couple narrative going through relationships…. Intimacy and (as per the title) endings,” in an intricate weave of journeys that he’s been working on, in one way or another, since 2010. His original inspiration, he’s said, was a sadder-but-wiser personal relationship arc experience. 

As often happens in Hastey productions, the audience and the performance engage with each other in unusual ways. Sometimes they’re site-specific (the “pillow show” has been done in mattress shops); sometimes Toy Guns shows have extrapolated from the props. This time the audience will find soft balls Velcro-ed under their seats, ready to be thrown at the stage in propitious moments. And there’s always live music; for Fortuitous Endings it’s the work of Must Be Tuesday.

It’s taken Hastey six years to broker the grants and venues, and to develop the ensemble he needs for an entire season of his large-cast work. This upcoming debut season also includes a January debut for Hastey’s mask show What Colour (Color) Is Your Dress? which follows a young woman into the afterlife. In March, the company revives Propylene Glycol…. 

PREVIEW

Fortuitous Endings: What To Do When You Wake Up Drunk In A BBQ Cover In Your Neighbour’s Backyard

Theatre: Toy Guns Dance Theatre

Created and directed by: Jake Hastey

Where: Westbury Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: Thursday through Saturday

Tickets: toygunstheatre.com

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