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August 12, 2010

The Eye of the Storm – Jason Patrick Rothery

Jason Patrick Rothery

Jason Patrick Rothery in Oh What a Lovely War. Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.

Jason Patrick Rothery is a playwright, actor, and member of the Soulpepper Academy. His play POLITIkO was nominated for a Betty Mitchell Award, and he appears on stage in our Lab Series production of Window on Toronto.

A friend once shared with me the following mantra: Serenity in the eye of the storm. Often have I quietly chanted these words during the creation Window on Toronto. Enter our rehearsal hall and you would think a tornado just tore through a department store, or Mr. Dressup’s tickle trunk erupted, volcano-like, spewing clouds of costumes into the air. Wigs, hats and shoes dangle from upended shelving and upside-down bookcases, wheelchairs and skateboards and roller-skates, dolls and balloons and recycling bins poke out from under heaps of clothing.

Here’s the skinny: last year, our passionate Hungarian ringleader Laszlo Marton asked us to identify locations in Toronto that we felt somehow defined the city. Hence the hot dog truck across from City Hall. You, future audience member, are inside the truck looking out; a four by five foot window your vantage point on the mad rush, mind-boggling diversity, and fantastical elements streaming through Toronto’s bloodstream.

We’re building this project primarily through extended improvisational sessions, some lasting upwards of ninety minutes. This is crazed, madcap stunt-work wherein academy members don any available costume piece, grab a prop – and boom: enter the window. They have a momentary interaction with the vendor (voice of yours truly), and quick as thinking they’re off as the next character enters. We whittle down the roster to our favourites, gradually developing a sequence. These sequences are then intercut with group compositions. You’ll have to see it for yourself, but the old woman and the white balloon still brings tears to my eyes.

I love me some serenity, but clearly the best creativity is oftentimes born of chaos. So we step out of the eye, and into the storm itself…