K. S. MCCUTCHEON
As a theatrical performance, Scene Slam offers a very unique experience and opportunity. Going beyond a traditional theatre show, it engages the audience in everything from developing script ideas to acting — leaving it largely up to the crowd to determine how the evening will take shape.
Scene Slam is a free event that takes place at Louis’ every Monday evening until the end of April. Three playwrights receive prompts from the audience and have one hour to write a play. After an hour of entertainment, the audience members are invited to act in the three plays. Prizes are awarded accordingly for the audience’s favourite playwright and actor.
The host of Scene Slam, Charlie Peters notes that the event offers a very different experience from something recorded or previously practiced.
“A theatrical performance is new every night. There’s magic every night happening right in front of you,” Peters said.
The first Scene Slam event occurred in January and Peters hopes that the location, lack of charge and communal nature of Scene Slam will make theatre accessible to everyone.
“Theatre is at the core of storytelling and is an integral part of culture,” said Peters.
For the Scene Slam on Feb. 24, Peters began by introducing the playwrights and then asked the audience questions to create prompts. Hilarious questions and answers followed such as, “What is an object you wouldn’t find in a living room?” to which the audience replied, “Dildo!”
To the question, “What is an object you wouldn’t find in a kitchen?” the audience answered “Pillow!” Peters tried to steer the scene in a nonsexual direction, but the audience involvement does call for flexibility and provides an improvisational challenge.
As the playwrights created their works, the audience was entertained by local singers and accompanist Karen Reynauld. Peters performed alongside accomplished opera singer Erica McFadden. The audience was also graced with a breathtaking performance by Lauren Allen — founder of Staple Productions, which aims to bring modern musicals to Saskatoon.
The hour of entertainment before the acting varies each week, including creative forms like improv, previews of professional productions and Actor’s Olympics — a series of acting challenges including memory exercises, accent work and impressions. Once the entertainment ends, audience members are encouraged to enter their names into the “acting draw.”
Following a short break for the audience to refill on beer and appetizers, the playwrights return to the stage and name their plays. Feb. 24 saw Stephen Rutherford’s All Nighter, Danielle Roy’s Delores the Hussy and Blair Woynarski’s An Unusual Audition introduced, and a total of seven actors drawn from the audience.
Peters’ favorite part of the evening is finding out who will read with who and what they will read, which is always coincidental. His own mother, Lynne Higgins, was even a memorable performer in All Nighter.
The actors only have one read through before they take their places on the stage. Each actor must relax, trust the script and assume their character immediately.
Andy McNab was voted best actor for the Feb. 24 Scene Slam. He has previously served as a playwright for the event and is a spoken word artist involved in student theatre productions.
“Anytime you can do something spontaneous with theatre, it’s a really good thing. It’s a wonderful medium that tends to exist in a formal setting,” said McNab.
Danielle Roy, who was voted best playwright for Delores the Hussy, also appreciates the relaxed and spontaneous nature of Scene Slam. Her mindset during the hour of playwriting is focused on finding what she referred to as a “silly place.”
Peters recommends that the playwrights and actors enjoy the loose environment and embrace spontaneity. This expectation — or rather lack of expectations — is a positive thing.
The improvised nature of Scene Slam “breaks down any pretension of theatre, since theatre can become elitist,” said Peters.
Peters credits Embrace Theatre for presenting Scene Slam, Louis’ assistant manager Mike Willock as well as the accompanist, performers, actors and playwrights. Peters also applauds the audience members for their significant role in the whole process. The audience suggests the prompts, has the option to act, votes for their favourites and is entertained during the entire event.
Students, faculty and anyone outside the University of Saskatchewan are invited to attend and to take part, including those who are not trained actors. Scene Slam is a unique opportunity to see and experience theatre in a casual environment.
For more information visit the Scene Slam: A Dramatic Night at Louis’ Facebook page. Those interested in playwriting can contact Peters directly through the Facebook page.