‘Theatre of the Now’ brings community together

A spotlight shines on an empty stage in a theatre. Wikipedia Commons

Sum Theatre gives people food for thought about current events

Award-winning hip hop performing artist Eekwol (Lindsay Knight) opened the Sum Theatre’s “The Last Sunday” with a bang. She performed a short rap about ‘fighting the fight’ against oppression, which set the tone and stage for the fourth episode of the season at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon.

About 50 to 75 people watched the show via YouTube and shared their comments and reactions to the show in the chat window. The theatre only had the production crew and guest artists.

Artistic director Joel Bernbaum said the point of the evening was to take people down the path of understanding of the past month’s events, such as an insurrection (Capitol Hill protests) and a new American president.

Artists are given freedom to tackle any topic as long as it happened in the past month. For most artists, the Capitol Hill protests took centre stage. On January 6, supporters of past President Donald Trump breached the U. S.  Capitol Hill. Trump urged his followers to protest the verification of the electoral votes that would confirm President Joe Biden’s victory.

Eekwol shared about how she has been using her art as a “creative wave of escaping” the pandemic. Her piece “Southern Sunset” was timely because the numbers of COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed and everyone is struggling with mental health.

Next up was this month’s ranter, Peace Akintade, the 2021 Saskatchewan Youth Poet Laureate. She recounted her day when she heard the news about Capitol Hill protests. She ranted about how she thought it wasn’t fair to compare the George Floyd protests with the Capitol Hill protests.

“When we talk about the Capitol, let us say that Black Lives Matter did it better and with honour,” Akintade concluded.

Then actors took the stage to perform “Dear Diary: A Story of Defeat” by Prince Albert playwright Adreanna Boucher. She penned the play about Capitol Hill from the vantage point of heaven, where George Washington is talking with an angel who is trying to explain what happened January 6, 2021. Other characters in the play included a dead member of the Capitol Hill police force and an adamant Trump supporter (who was a former soldier), who vehemently defended the former president. Trump even makes an appearance, where he shares his innermost thoughts about Biden winning the election.

To switch up the mood, Eekwol performed a rap about loving oneself and loving one another.

Each month, “The Last Sunday” has a guest who is in the ‘hot seat.’ In this episode, Bernbaum interviewed Scott Napper, a Professor in the College of Medicine within the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology as well as a Senior Scientist within the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO). Napper talked about how vaccines work and dispelled myths and misinformation about vaccines.

Napper said didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up at all, let alone a scientist. When he was in third year university in sciences, he worked in a research lab where he was studying some hormone. He asked his supervisor if he knew what would happen next? He said, “If we knew that, it wouldn’t be research.”

“It was at that moment that’s when it really hit me. We’re standing at the edge of what’s known and we’re trying to go further. We’re trying to learn something that no one else in history has done. We’re creating history,” he said.

Without missing a beat, Bernbaum asked Napper what his favourite hormone was. Napper said oxytocin, the love hormone.

Napper also fielded questions from the viewers who posted them on the chat window. One question was about if the COVID-19 vaccine would impact DNA. Napper explained that the vaccine used the messenger RNA so it would be used as a blueprint for the cells to know how to make the protein to strengthen the immune system. The vaccine wouldn’t impact the DNA. Someone asked if it was possible for this blueprint not to work for some people.

“Yes, we are all different,” he said. “But think of the vaccine of what it does for the population in general, not just an individual.”

Napper said that the important thing about vaccines was to protect enough people in the general population to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Even though the main theme for this particular episode of “The Last Sunday” focused on the Capitol Hill event, Judith Schulz, artistic associate with The Sum Theatre, says that she still doesn’t know what to expect from the artists.

“That’s the thrilling part of live theatre because it’s not scripted.”

She says the Sum Theatre calls itself the ‘theatre of the now’ because the art form is supposed to be very current and immediate and focused on what people are thinking about and processing.

“And that’s the beauty of it (basing theatre on current events). We just have to make sure our artists are able to turn on a dime and switch what they’re doing if need be.”

Schulz says the most stressful part of putting on “The Last Sunday” is finding and booking artists for the show, because the Sum Theatre wants to showcase a diversity of talent.

“We’re trying to find a new ranter every month, a new musician. We know the group of artists or at least some of the artists in Saskatoon fairly well, but we’re, we’re now trying to connect with our partners and see, okay, do you have musicians in Battlefords that we could find a musician for April and they could come do the music for April or a rant or from Prince Albert for May,” she says.

Even though artists may have an idea of what they want to present, it may change at the last minute because of the news events.

“We could have a play written and ready to go on the 20th the month and then something major happened on the 25th and they give us a whole new draft about something completely different on the 29th,” said Schulz.

“The Last Sunday” is an excellent example of spontaneity through live theatre.

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