If you’re looking for some bang for your theatre buck, are slightly short of attention span and own a pair of comfortable shoes, look no further than subDevision. Billed as “theatre in and around a massive party” subDevision brings together artists from thirteen independent companies, each creating a short original piece to fit the unique space they’ve been given, in this case, the nooks, crannies, lofts and studios of the Enriched Bread Artists studio. The building, dating back to 1920, was once a bread factory and for the past twenty-two years has housed the Enriched Bread Artists as well as other independent artists. The chance to wander its weird halls is alone worth the price of admission.
There is no posted schedule, only a program listing the thirteen performances and experiences for you to discover. See as many shows as you can squeeze in, or return to your favourites over and over again, or just hang around by the bar looking cool and enjoying the convivial, carnival atmosphere. It’s in your hands. Part of the fun is finding your next show or letting it find you. You can be master or mistress of your own destiny or you can just go with the flow. It’s a Choose-Your Own Adventure night of theatre. The chaos really pulls the whole thing together.
There’s plenty of opportunity for audience participation, both in groups and solo adventures. Don’t worry. You won’t have to break out of a locked room. It’s all fun. You may get to gleefully inform a nice stranger that you have found them (don’t worry; they’ll be pleased). Perhaps you’ll be holding a rock when it happens, unsure of its significance (don’t worry, it will all become clear). Your new friend may be or may not be holding a paddle. The important thing is not to worry.
The intimate performance spaces really draw you into each piece, with the audiences for the staged shows rarely numbering in the double digits. The line between performer and audience is refreshingly blurred, with many performances geared towards audience participation and interaction. Multi-media, including iPods and head sets are used to great effect in a few of the pieces.
My companion and I were there from the beginning to the end of show time on opening night and were consistently entertained by both the productions and environment. We didn’t manage to get to all of the performances, but we came close. The three hours really flew by. oh dear oh dear is a real stand out and if like me you have a deep sentimental attachment to the printed word, you’ll find it hard not to tear up a little at Paper: Interviews with the Forgotten.
Taken as a single event, subDevision provides elements of a festival, a well-planned house party, and a gallery show all at once, and much of its success has to be attributed as much to the organizers as to the individual shows. Hints of performances to come (or to be discovered) are to be found throughout the building and in the hands of fellow audience members making their way through the environment. This constant awareness of “something going on” makes for an energetic, and energizing, experience. The studios themselves, and the art (and artists) they house are incorporated into many of the shows, lending the whole affair a circularity which only adds to subDevision’s immersive appeal.
Though the performances wrap up at 10:30 p.m. the bar stays open and the festive vibe continues until midnight with some great DJs providing a soundtrack for your dancing enjoyment, or to just take in the atmosphere of this unique and inspiring event.
subDevision is happening tonight and tomorrow (March 20 & 21, 2015) at Enriched Bread Artists (951 Gladstone Ave). Doors open at 7pm, performances start at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online. Bonus: if you return for a second night, your ticket will be $10.