by Brendan Reid
VANCOUVER – Art can too often feel like a one-way conversation. You are presented with an idea or concept, and then you hold it inside to cultivate and fester. There is no discourse, simply the sharing of one person’s thoughts with another.
Sebastien Archibald, Kevin Loring, and Quelemia Sparrow seek to change all that with The Pipeline Project. Their ambitious production is unique in its structure. The three artists found the drama within the writer’s room was the perfect theatrical fodder, and chose to recreate their heated discussions on stage.
“The play maps our journeys as we encounter each other and face off against each other, [acknowledge] our prejudices and different world views, and look inward to interrogate ourselves and our own complacency,” says Archibald. “Hypocrisies and challenges are explored throughout the play as we tackle our own culpability, and we realize we can’t just point our finger at the corporation or the government. It’s much more difficult than that.”
The Pipeline Project seeks to remind us that we are all part of this damaging system and also shows the harsh realities of big oil businesses. A series of multimedia vignettes break up the first act, demonstrating the personal effects that pipelines have on Indigenous communities.
And yet, the conversation is never straightforward. In its second act, The Pipeline Project dives headfirst into a potentially uncomfortable dialogue. Each performance features a guest speaker, individuals with experience or expertise on the themes and issues explored in the play. Once introductions and ideologies are established, audience members are invited to ask questions and share their own views.
“[The discussion] can be an emotional experience, because it taps into either ignorance or feelings of not being heard or seen by society at large, especially in regard to issues facing Indigenous people across Canada,” says Archibald. “It can sometimes resemble a town hall meeting.”
The conversation brought forth by The Pipeline Project is one that is long overdue. For countless generations there has been conflict between settler and Indigenous populations, and the play acts as a step towards reconciliation – a step towards finding solutions to this seemingly impossible problem, one that is not exclusive to pipeline conflicts.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about pipelines or fracking or building golf courses or condominiums, the central ideological conflict remains the same,” says Archibald. He plans on bringing the play across Canada and beyond to continue the conversation. “I hope to be able to use this play to create a national dialogue in the ways that only theatre can, live and immediate, to connect with people, to have these kinds of discussions, and to figure out what to do about these issues as a collective.”
The Pipeline Project runs from January 10-20 at the Firehall Arts Centre.Environment, Firehall Arts Centre, The Pipeline Project, theatre