Q&A: Vitals

Katherine Cullen on her life-saving role in Outside The March's latest immersive theatre experience

Presented by Outside The March
Sponsored by Theatre Passe Muraille
Written by Rosamund Small
Directed by Mitchell Cushman
Performed by Katherine Cullen

Katherine Cullen stars as Anna in Outside the March's Vitals. Photo by Mike Barlas.

Imagine a job where every call is an emergency. Not many of us can. Until now...

Toronto playwright Rosamund Small has teamed up with Outside The March to offer audiences a window into the life and death world of paramedics in her new play Vitals, an immersive, site-specific solo show starring Katherine Cullen as an EMS worker responding to calls in the city. Based on interviews with real paramedics, the story explores the impact these emergencies have on the responder. The experience begins at 149 Roncesvalles Avenue, at the corner of Roncesvalles and Garden Avenue (just outside of Solarski Pharmacy), and continues on to an actual residence.

Here, Cullen talks about what she has learned from working on this unique production.

Theatromania: How would you describe OTM’s production of Rosamund Small’s Vitals in a few sentences?

KC: It is a immersive theatrical experience. Normally with theatre there is a separation between audience and performer but that is not the case with this show. I think audiences will feel like they have entered a very real world.

Theatromania: You play Anna, an EMS worker, in the show. Tell us about your character, what motivates her and how did you prepare for this role?

KC: She is a very practical person and she doesn’t suffer fools. She is not sentimental and she is pretty tough. But she loses that toughness as the show progress and goes to a very vulnerable place which is not familiar to her. I met with several paramedics and chatted with them about their experiences. It was very helpful with preparing for this role and I learned so much about why people are medics. I think its a combination of having a sense of adventure (every call is diferent) and having a real desire to help people and make a diference.

Theatromania: Is there anything that particularly surprised you about this profession?

KC: How dangerous it can be for medics! I never thought about it too much but some calls can be dangerous and you can get attacked.

Theatromania: The show is performed in various outdoor and indoor locations. What are some of the challenges in staging a site-specific production?

KC: Our biggest challenge is weather. We have a rain contingency plan but its a constant guessing game as to what version of the show to do depending on rain or not.

Theatromania: What key learnings will you take away from this experience?

KC: I am not sure exactly yet but I will have a clearer picture of what I have learned when the run is over. For now, I am learning a lot about interaction between performer and audience. There are many instances where I am interacting with various audience members and in a sense, the audience becomes a character in the show as well.

Catch Katherine Cullen in Vitals until May 25. Visit outsidethemarch.ca for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2014-04-29 - Sun, 2014-05-25


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