By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Imagine, if you will, a place where where live people are haunted by imaginary people. Where they inhabit the lives of others, and stories come to life when the lights are out. A place of strange rituals, where “break a leg!” is a slogan of good luck….
Yes, theatres are genuinely eerie places. They’re inhabited by ghosts — of people who existed and people who were imagined by people who existed.
Catch the Keys Productions knows where the bodies are buried. For their 13th nocturnal excursion into our our civic history Dead Centre of Town takes us into a real theatre, the vintage Capitol Theatre on 1920 Street in Fort Edmonton Park. It’s a beautiful reproduction of a theatre (c. 1929) that was once to be found on Jasper Avenue, in the heart of a lively entertainment district that is no more.
It’s one of their best. Even when theatres are dark, they’re never really empty, after all. There’s always a single ‘ghost light’ hanging over the stage, just to make sure the resident phantoms feel at home.
Fort Edmonton at night is a shivery spot; you’re walking into the graveyard where the secrets of our macabre civic history lie slumbering. And, as playwright Megan Dart has found, stories can come to life. As always in Dead Centre of Town, you start around a bonfire under the dark sky, the traditional gathering place of ghost stories and their tellers.
Expertly managed by pale spectres (Christine Lesiak and Adam Keefe look freshly dug up, so to speak), and narrated by tall lanky Colin Matty, Beth Dart’s production immerses us in the mysterious world of theatre. It’s crammed with theatre stuff, old costumes, ropes, heads where wigs once stood (designed by John and Kat Evans and Ian Walker). We loop from onstage to backstage, through the dimly lit hallways of the theatre labyrinth the audience never gets to see into prop rooms, the shop where sets were made. We see the view from the house seats, we hear the ghostly sound of two hands clapping. Where’s the laughter coming from? (designer: Michael Caron). We find ourselves in the lobby, the portal to the so-called “real” world.
And we meet the unruly theatre ghosts who never sleep because, as we all know, theatre is all-consuming. There’s the projectionist at the Garneau Theatre who may have met a terrible fate (Jake Tkaczyk); the ‘princess’ of the Princess Theatre (Sarah Emslie); the undead fireman (Murray Farnell) who haunts the ex-firehall Walterdale Theatre; the ghost of the Bus Barns (Max Hanic) where the Fringe now creates theatre. And we meet an uncanny little girl (Dayna Lee Hoffman) who seems to know every nook and cranny of the Capitol.
“Edmonton’s only live action thriller” has found its natural home. You have till Sunday to catch it there (7:30 and 9:30 p.m. nightly). Tickets (which can be bundled with Dark): fortedmontonpark.
12thnight talks to playwright Megan Dart in this preview.