Q&A: In Case We Disappear

Vanessa Smythe on solo storytelling and staging her new work at the East End Performance Crawl

Created and performed by Vanessa Smythe

Vanessa Smythe in In Case We Disappear.

Everyone loves a good bedtime story, but Vanessa Smythe takes this idea a step further in her latest show In Case We Disappear. Now playing as part of Crow's Theatre's East End Performance Crawl, the work explores storytelling as a means of connection and comfort.

We caught up with the actress/writer to find out more about her experience working on this personal piece.

Theatromania: What inspired In Case We Disappear?

VS: My little brother and I used to share a room when we were younger. Almost always, before going to sleep, we’d talk about disappearing. That we’d disappear, that we wouldn’t be able to know when, and that there were certain things we had to do before we did. These conversations would go on and on, but they’d always end the same way: with us telling stories. Only when we’d tell each other our embarrassing and kooky stories would we become a little more okay with going to sleep. When I got older and didn’t have my brother next to me, I’d still crave that ritual. So I started making up little stories into my cellphone recorder and playing them back to myself like lullabies. These stories, and this particular need to tell them, inspires in case we disappear.

Theatromania: How would you describe this piece in a few sentences?

VS: The piece is titled so that I’ll deliberately remember why I’m doing it. Namely, in case I (or my ability to tell stories) disappear unexpectedly. So in a way, in a playful, musical, curious way, the show feels like an ultimate love letter. But one that’s not too heavy about it. Like we’re hanging out in a friend’s apartment, laughing, and maybe looking each other in the eyes. Part spoken-word, part stand-up, often sung, and all true. Think Flight of the Conchords, but turn up the earnest.

Theatromania: Have you learned anything new or significant during this process?

VS: Yes. When you know that more people might see your work, there’s a temptation to change it or mute it in some way, trying to anticipate what people will like, what will satisfy them. While I think it’s important to consider your audience, it’s been a real lesson in listening to my instincts. The show doesn’t feel easy to categorize, and at the best of times, I’m glad to see it that way. Taking the time to reconnect with the origins of the work, with why I’m doing it, it becomes a necessary part of the process, and something to do every day. Otherwise I think I’ll silence the heart of it, what really brings it to life.

Theatromania: What excites you most about being part of the East End Performance CRAWL?

VS: It’s so exciting feeling like I’m part of a community of solo performers. It can be a lonely art form sometimes, a lot of time with just me and my own voice. To feel in the company of so many exciting storytellers, people who’re inspiring and reinventing the form in their own ways, and to celebrate our work with the support of Crow’s Theatrean amazing and cutting-edge companyit all just feels pretty rock and roll, y’know? Special.

Theatromania: What’s next for you?

VS: In Case We Disappear was accepted into United Solo Festival in New York, so we’re preparing for the American premiere in the fall. I’m also doing a writing mentorship right now, developing some of the stories for publishing.

Catch Vanessa Smythe in In Case We Disappear until June 1 as part of Crow's Theatre's East End Performance Crawl. Visit crowstheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Sat, 2014-05-24 - Sun, 2014-06-01


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