The show’s tagline says it all: “Mermaids. Campfires. Pirates. Clowns. Water and Fire. Earth and Air. Poems, Stories, Songs. It’s Elemental.” Elemental is a double-bill of new one-person plays by Saskatoon artists, presented as part of Live Five’s current season.
Act One, Many Fires, is written and performed by Charlie Peters. It uses the campfire as a centrepiece to tell the story, which explores masculinity, including toxicity and self-destruction, while trying to envision a brighter future. Act Two, On the Rocks, is written by Danielle Altrogge and performed by Amanda Trapp. It features mermaid myths from around the world and shares the experiences of a bisexual woman on a quest for healing after sexual assault.
“Content-wise, the shows have a lot in common. Charlie’s show is all about fire and combustion and processing anger, and On the Rocks is about healing and finding community after you’ve been burned,” Altrogge says. “We’re telling a story about how we need to unpack our perceptions about gender in general, if we’re going to get to the bottom of gender violence.”
Both shows are semi-autobiographical and combine a variety of genres, including poetry, projected visuals and physical theatre, such as puppetry and clown, to create a unique theatrical experience for the audience. These interdisciplinary elements add lightness to a show with heavy themes.
Given the traumatic subject matter, the team needed to practice self-care during rehearsals. “We had too look at how to make space for the crying you go through when you’re dealing with sexual assault, teen suicide and toxic masculinity. We have dance parties in rehearsal to help us reset how we’re working. We have fun parts of our show – we’ve got clowns, we’ve got mermaids, we’ve got glitter! – but we also have difficult stuff, too,” Altrogge says.
On the Rocks is a performance poem Altrogge wrote as her thesis for the master of fine arts in writing program at the University of Saskatchewan. She workshopped the piece at the Banff Centre’s Spoken Word Intensive in 2017 and toured some of the poems across Eastern Canada in 2016. Several of the poems have also been published in journals. “I hope to blur the lines between poetry and theatre,” she says.
Many Fires has been in development since 2016 and is a culmination of Peters’ past works and creative interests, including devised theatre pieces. He sees it as a great chance to bring various artistic practices into one performance. Peters received two Independent Artists grants from the Saskatchewan Arts Board for development of his play, and Elemental also received a grant to workshop the show and present its world premiere in Saskatoon.
Altrogge hopes that audiences will find relatable content in the show that they can connect with. “I hope that they take away a sense of support and solidarity. We want to do this in a way that helps but doesn’t hurt.” The team also wnts to help change perspectives on what theatre looks like. “I hope the show will inspire other artists to try new things and start conversations about how we can collaborate with other disciplines.”
Elemental runs February 17-18 and 20-24, with a pay-what-you-can preview on February 14. For tickets, visit Live Five’s website.
Charlie Peters performs in Many Fires. Photo by S. E. Grummett
Danielle Altrogge, writer of On the Rocks. Photo by Stephen Rutherford