A style of drama known as forum theatre makes its debut in Kamloops with a subject guaranteed to draw a crowd — the proposed Ajax mine.
David Diamond's Theatre for Living (formerly Headlines Theatre) of Vancouver travels the Interior this month with a road version of its current project, Corporations in Our Heads.
"It's a kind of theatre that has not happened in this town before but which I think will continue after," said Glenn Hilke, a recently arrived Kamloops resident with a background in experimental theatre.
Forum theatre originated in Brazil in the 1960s and '70s, when Augusto Boal, creator of a movement known as Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal saw forum theatre as a means of directly involving audiences in the moment.
Hilke, who was struck by the divisiveness of the mine proposal from the time he arrived, saw an opportunity when he learned that Diamond was touring.
"Of course, when you arrive, the chance of a story on the Ajax mine on the front page is pretty likely," he said, noting the high profile the project has assumed in the community.
Yet, Hilke is quick to point out, forum theatre does not take sides.
"This type of theatre has no actors, no script, there's no play," said Hilke, who's producing the Kamloops show. "It's the actual audience and what they bring to the discussion that then is dramatized and resolved. With the help of the facilitator, this makes it unique."
Corporations in Our Head is a "process project," something that Diamond has never toured before. Diamond will serve as facilitator and will try to balance the presentation of what he calls "theatre without a net."
After a short warmup, the audience is invited to share stories of their own experiences with, for example, corporations. Three people might offer stories and the audience chooses the story with greatest resonance. Other audience members will then fill in certain roles as the story comes to life.
Seeing an opportunity to imitate life with art, Hilke asked Diamond if he might adapt the show in Kamloops as Messages in Our Heads: Community Stories About Ajax Mine. Diamond agreed.
"Being a rookie (as a resident) here in the community, I thought maybe this is something I can do."
Some of his friends are for the mine, some are against, Hilke said. Some say they're leaving if the mine goes ahead.
"That upsets me because I like the place. The idea that the community is so split and everybody is talking about everybody else's position."
The Ajax version of Corporations in Our Heads comes to the Old Yacht Club, 1140 River St., on Nov. 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. There is no admission charge, although donations will be accepted. A potluck dinner precedes the show.
Hilke is not sure he will fill every seat, but knows the two evenings will be interesting.
Forum theatre uses primal language to instil empathy. In this case, the drama will explore multiple messages, their influence and ways to avoid polarizing the community, he said.
"Community Stories will investigate how varying messages affect our emotional lives and social relations, and how the messages inform or misinform the choices we make as individuals."