Playwright Project 2013: Red One Theatre Collective
Red One founding members Benjamin Blais and Brenhan McKibben on staging Sam Shepard's Geography of a Horse Dreamer
"We're doing some exciting things with this production," says Red One Theatre Collective founding member Benjamin Blais about the company's rock 'n' roll production of Sam Shepard's Geography of a Horse Dreamer. The show opens today as part of the 2013 Playwright Project, an ambitious undertaking that brings together seven indie theatre companies in a collaborative effort to stage seven one-act plays by a featured playwright in seven different Toronto neighbourhoods.
One of Shepard's more obscure plays, Geography follows Cody (Steven McCarthy), a cowboy with a gift for dreaming horse race winners, who is kidnapped and watched over by a pair of low-level gangsters, Santee (Blais) and Beaujo (played by fellow Red One founding member Brenhan McKibben), on behalf of a British crime boss named Fingers (Julian Richings) and an enigmatic, diabolical doctor (Carlos Conzalez-Vio).
"It's a very allegorical play," McKibben says while setting up for an event at the Storefront Theatre, a new venue dedicated the support of local independent artists, and Red One's temporary home at 955 Bloor Street West. "You can read into each characters' position and situation. Santee and Beaujo have a similar job, they're in the same boat, but they've got different attitudes toward Cody, the horse dreamer."
"Santee represents the classic American gangster," says Blais. "Like James Cagney—he was an inspiration to Shepard in the early days. Beaujo's character represents a more human aspect. He's a journeyman and curious about exploring the artistic process."
"He's got patience and faith in Cody," says McKibben. "As far as the horse racing goes, Santee's character will know details, statistics and things."
"Yeah, he's real black and white," says Blais. "Like a black-and-white movie."
The cast has not had much time to rehearse, but that's part of the adventure. "We're working with some amazing actors on this project and everyone is very busy," says Blais. "I feel honoured, and I think I can speak for Brenhan too, that they are really excited to be able to do this with us. We planned this a while ago, like, 'OK guys, we're only going to meet six times and then it's going to be a wild ride, so know your lines before you show up'," he laughs.
Directed by Amos Crawley, Red One's production will feature musical performances by Local 164, as well as a surprise guest appearance every night.
"That's the exciting thing about the festival," Blais explains. "It's a chance to explore and experiment. The production moves from place to place so you're forced to be very industrious, you have to drive around and set it up and then tear it down. It's really important to be loose and have fun with it. So we've got a few tricks up our sleeves."
Catch Red One Theatre's Geography of a Horse Dreamer from May 1 to 7 at venues across the city. Visit playwrightproject.com for a full show schedule and to buy tickets.