Post by Kassandra Engmann
How things are made, shapes what it is made. This is the philosophy that Floral Theatre, a young Ottawa theatre troupe, practiced during their preparations for their first Ottawa Fringe Festival performance of Three to Leave and hopes to foster through all their future endeavours.
Comprised of four high school and university students, Sofie Milito, Sadie Laflamme-Snow, Aurel Pressat and Franco Pang met while working together on Concord Floral, a play by Jordan Tannahill, directed by Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner. The piece followed 10 teenagers who frequent in an old abandoned greenhouse and the realities of their lives in the suburbs. It was especially unique as it sought to authentically portray the teenage experience by actually casting teenagers. In spring 2016, the piece was staged with an entirely new cast in Ottawa, Tannahill’s hometown. The production would continue to tour across Canada and cast 10 local teen actors in every city.
This group pays homage to Concord Floral and the way in which it was produced through their name and how they carry out their projects. Sofie Milito, who is currently in her last year at Canterbury High School, recounted that “the process was really supportive and we were constantly encouraged to be present with each other and real with each other. We all felt that we shared this common creative energy. I felt that I could have worked with any of those teenagers again.”
But the beginnings of this group were pretty unorthodox. They knew they wanted to work together again eventually in the future but it was only after seeing a show together in the fall of 2016 that they decided on a street corner, in the span of 5 minutes, to enter the Fringe Festival Lottery! With no concept of their show, how they were going to manage school life, work or if they were going to get a venue, Floral Theatre lucked out with one of the two youth spots.
Then the writing process began. “We kind of wrote backwards, we wrote from a feeling and an idea that what we wanted people to take out of the piece,” Sadie Laflamme-Snow, another senior at Canterbury, explained to me. “It was more like ‘What kind of theatre do we want to see? Okay, let’s make it.’”
Three to Leave was showcased at this year’s Fringe Festival and follows three former childhood friends who are going through transition and struggle with their past selves. Through this piece, they wanted to reinforce the important lessons they learned from their previous work and experiences; and as Snow says, “offer people a new way to think about their own experiences. What variables could lead to different outcomes so people can own their past and potential futures.” She continued to say that she hoped “that people would see it and go ‘Yeah, that was worth seeing and young people do have something to say’ and they are interesting, their experiences aren’t all some trivial, after-school-special topics.”
“What kind of theatre do we want to see? Okay, let’s make it.”
Aurel Pressat, a student of the Centre d’Excellence Artistique de l’Ontario at l‘École secondaire publique De La Salle also emphasized that “Three to Leave is theatre for teenagers by teenagers but this play is something I feel like people of all ages can see themselves in. Although it is from the perspective of 3 young teenagers, they are going through something people have gone through or will go through. No matter your age there will always be moments when you’ll be transitioning.”
Franco Pang is another member of Floral Theatre and is in his last year at the University of Ottawa completing a double major in Psychology and Theatre Production. He credited the Emerging Creators Unit for their dramaturgical help in nurturing and centering their project. “As we produced more pieces and vignettes and workshopped with the Emerging Creators Unit, we found pieces that were more cohesive and from there, strung together these characters and the journey they would be on.”
I asked them about what they hope for the future of the company and Pang expressed that “in the future, whenever there is a collaboration between anyone who has worked on Concord Floral, from any iteration, they could take up the name of Floral Theatre for their project – a pop-up theatre company of sorts. We have this huge community and hopefully if you’re working under this name, you’re practicing the same philosophy that Cara and Erin instilled.”
It seems that things are coming up flowers for these four Concord Floral Alumni and I’m very excited to see what the future holds for these four talented young people.
For more from Floral Theatre, please visit them on Facebook.