Vancouver’s Pi Theatre steps out of the theatre and into an East Vancouver classroom for a site-specific production of Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets.
“I thought it would be good piece to see in a site specific space,” says director Richard Wolfe. “There was something really compelling to me about setting it in a classroom. We’ve all been there and it is part of our DNA so as an audience we can relate.”
More than a location that audiences can relate to though, Wolfe also believes there is an energy that lives within the hallways of Admiral Seymour Elementary School that will also serve the story well.
“There are lots of ghosts that live in those hallways and there is something that is really attractive about that idea,” he says. “When I was looking for a school to do it in, I was looking for an older school and we ended up at Admiral, which was built in 1907 which in of itself is quite remarkable for Vancouver.”
But as Wolfe talks of the energy emanating from the school, he also talks of the energy that will be generated as the audience watches as the story unfolds in front of them inside the classroom.
“The action happens in and around the desks in the room and it is very intimate,” says Wolfe, who also makes it clear that the audience are observers only and will not be pulled into the story, an idea he admits is frightening to a lot of theatre-goers.
“The audience is brought into this place to watch this human laboratory as it were and Caitriona and Stephanie will be able to feed off the energy that is generated by the audience. The energy will be bouncing around the room from actor to audience and back again. It will be really palpable on both sides. It is an experience that will be very, very fresh.”
Drawn to the high level of “emotionality and complexity” of the two characters in the piece, Wolfe particularly liked the way in which that complexity is created from the age-old story found in Between the Sheets.
“It struck me as very contemporary and not overly melodramatic,” says Wolfe who first saw a production of the play at the 2012 Groundswell Festival in Toronto. “The problem with these types of plays is they can veer into melodrama, but [in Between the Sheets] neither of the characters are truly good or bad. It is refreshing that these people are so complex.”
Beyond the drama that is created between the two women, Wolfe also found himself attracted to some of the bigger themes that the story tackles, including who is responsible for the development of a child and the role of women in contemporary society and the expectations placed on them.
“In this case the career mother is usually doing what we associate with career men: staying late at the office, not taking an active interest in their children’s lives, that sort of thing. When a man does it though it is accepted as normal, but when a woman does it we hear things like ‘she’s abandoning her family’”.
Calling the experience of watching the drama unfold in Between the Sheets an “ultra-human” one, Wolfe hopes he is creating the antithesis of the reality television that he finds so distancing and creating an “experience” that lasts well beyond the time it takes to turn the channel.
“It seems so hygienic watching those people living their lives behind a screen,” Wolfe says of reality television. “I think there are bound to be many people who have had an experience not unlike that what they are being presented with here in Between the Sheets. I hope that what they experience will linger with them for a while.”
Between the Sheets plays at Admiral Seymour Elementary School from March 14-26, 2014. Visit http://pitheatre.com for tickets and information.