Strip away pretty much everything a more traditional theatrical presentation might employ, and you are left with The Chair Series, a monthly evening of monologues.
“It’s lean and mean, with no props, no set, no lighting,” says writer and creator John McGie. “It is all about the crafts of writing and acting”.
“It is theatre for the short attention span” – John McGie
Originally designed to help McGie stretch his creative muscles as a writer, he soon discovered the actors needed more than just words.
“Apparently when actors learn a monologue they want to perform it,” says McGie with a laugh. “I had no idea that was the case. There was originally no intent to perform them, it was strictly to help get my writing chops up a bit.”
Since he began writing the monologues, McGie’s process remains largely the same. Meeting with an actor, the two talk about everything except theatre to get to know each other. McGie then asks the actor for a single word and from there writes based on that word. The result is a monologue running anywhere from three to six minutes.
Given the length, they are a perfect vehicle for the series, where a number of actors can get together to perform the monologues created specifically for them.
“It is theatre for the short attention span,” says McGie with a laugh. “If you don’t like what you are seeing at any particular moment you only have to wait a few minutes for another one.”
McGie also compares the show to that of a music set, where the monologues can be mixed and matched.
“There is so much variety in the monologues,” he says. “There are rapid-fire monologues, absurdist monologues, funny ones and serious ones.”
Having already performed in Whistler and Squamish, the upcoming Vancouver series will feature a rotating cast of actors.
“Each monologue can only be performed by the actor it was originally written for,” explains McGie. “Since the actor owns it, they are usually very invested in it.”
With over sixty monologues and some thirty actors performing them, the permutations are almost endless.
“We try really hard to make sure we don’t repeat the monologues,” he says. “For the Vancouver show for instance, each month will feature half new actors and new monologues.”
While The Chair Series may at first sound like an actors exercise, McGie says by stripping the show down to basics actually makes it more accessible to an audience.
“It takes it all down to the basic form of storytelling, and how that story is told,” he says. “People connect to it much easier as there is less in the way. There is also an accessibility that comes from doing it in a non-traditional theatre setting.”
The Chair Series opens at the Seven Dining Lounge (53 West Broadway, Vancouver) on May 20 and continues on the third Saturday of the month. Tickets are available via Eventbrite. You can find out more on the group’s Facebook page.