Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre will use the 2011 Stanley Cup riot as the backdrop for its production of RIOT. Photo by Christopher Fisher.
Vancouver's Electric Company Theatre will use the 2011 Stanley Cup riot as the backdrop for its production of RIOT. Photo by Christopher Fisher.

One of Vancouver’s more innovative theatre companies has set its eyes on one of our city’s darkest hours with RIOT, a large-scale live music, theatre, dance and multi-media work with the 2011 Stanley Cup riot as its backdrop.

“The 2011 Stanley Cup Riot is a very confusing part of our Vancouver history,” says Kim Collier, Artistic Associate and one of the co-founders of the Electric Company Theatre. Collier will also direct RIOT. “I think we all wonder how something like this could unfold in our city. So to tackle a piece that has the 2011 riot as its backdrop is to search for comprehension, understanding.”

Collier believes that through the project is the possibility of a greater understanding of what happened on June 15th and with it will come both social change and what she calls a “civilizing force”.

“The riot is a wild and hot subject in Vancouver,” she continues. “And sports riots in general leave the outsider baffled; it’s not a race riot, or political riot, it is not due to war or strife or starvation or an oppressive and domineering regime. What is the meaning of the act? Is it meaningless? Or can we come to understand something about our human condition and come to understand something about the situation youth find themselves within today that can be a productive outcome. Every person has the potential to swing towards creative acts or destructive acts. What are the forces that play in role in their actions?”

In searching for answers to some of these questions, the Electric Company Theatre is looking to speak with riot participants and bystanders as part of the show’s initial research process.  Realizing that it might be a tall order to have rioters actually come forward, Collier says it isn’t about laying blame and may even be a way for some participants to come to terms with what happened that night.

“The intent is not to vilify rioters or police, but to explore the grey areas of the riot and how events like this happen in our culture,” she says. “The research phase of this project will be open and compassionate and respectful.”

While there is a possibility that some participants in the research phase may be asked to appear in the production, either live on stage or on camera, Collier and her team are more interested in this point at hearing the stories from those that participated or witnessed the riot firsthand. Participants can also remain anonymous if they wish.

“The direction of the piece will be informed by the people we come in contact with and the wider ideas we encounter,” she continues. “So I feel that our project is a place where many people may find a way to express something that maybe they don’t even understand themselves, or something under their riot acts which needs an outlet, to be told, to be heard. I think we can all ask ourselves, what is the meaning of this riot? And where do we go from there?”

Always pushing boundaries of how we view theatre, Electric Company Theatre rarely does things in small measure, and from all indications RIOT will be no different with the addition of original music, dance, and video to the more traditional theatre experience.

“This interdisciplinary event will be less of a story and more of an emotional and intellectual journey,” says Collier. “Our intention is to immerse the audience into a riot like experience and then contextualize that experience. So music is the visceral and emotional access point. It is the energy of the riot but it is also the platform upon which we can reflect.”

Admitting that much of how this all comes together will largely depend on the development process, Collier and her team is looking to create as much an experience for audiences as an examination of what took place during the riot.

“I think we will want to create again very visceral emotional realties in and around the audience. Physical expression is key to the piece because there is a violence in riots that has to be explored,” she says. “But we also want to connect to the deeper concerns and expressions of the young people involved and allow our thoughts around what it is to riot to perhaps be changed.”

As part of the development of RIOT, the Electric Company Theatre is looking to speak with Stanley Cup riot participants and bystanders as part of its initial research process. If you are interested in participating you are asked to contact the company direct via email at info@electriccompanytheatre.com or by calling 604.253.4222 before January 15.