The creative spark for a new theatre company, L’Ark, took place at Yukon Educational Theatre’s (YET) presentation of Dean Eyre’s Diabetes, A Love Story nearly two years ago. Producer Arlin McFarlane arrived mid-show to a school gymnasium filled with young people. Immediately, she was struck by how completely engaged they were, listening intently to the live performance of a play about diabetes. She realized then, “This is what I want to do.”
McFarlane has now created L’Ark for YET. She says while its mandate involves education as a prime function (with art as the medium), in contrast L’Ark’s primary purpose lies in bringing live, artistically excellent theatre to young audiences.
“(It’s) crucial that it’s live,” she says, “because live theatre gives us the communal experience of sharing a moment. It takes us beyond individual experience, beyond isolation, and invites us to recognize and celebrate humanity.”
Brian Fidler, director and co-creator with Eyre of L’Ark’s first production, Darwin, A Fish Out of Water, says, “Live theatre gets the imagination going in a way that media doesn’t.”
Having been produced twice already, at Nakai Theatre’s Homegrown Festival last year and at Nakai for Kids this past January, Darwin, A Fish Out of Water will tour this May to schools in Whitehorse and surrounding areas.
“It’s a story of empowerment,” says Fidler, “about being different, about bullying, and about standing up for one’s self. It’s a very relevant theme to what really happens for kids.”
In creating the play, Fidler said it all began for him and Eyre with the creation of a very different kind of puppet?that actually sits on top of?the actors’ heads. From the puppet came the character of Darwin — a fish who has legs — and from that character, more characters, the theme of bullying and a place called Eddyville, where the story is set.
To tell the story, the play “takes the worlds of puppetry, mask and movement and stews them all together,” Fidler says, adding that in this case, “It’s had time to simmer.”
In this third production, he sees the play going, “beyond what we’ve done,” with new puppets created by Emily Woodruffe and Jo DeBeaudre, a new set by Meshel Melvin and a new cast member, Nicole Bauberger, taking over the role of Darwin.
After each school performance of Darwin, students will have a chance to see the puppets up close and to meet the performers.
“It’s important for children to be exposed to the idea of a career in the arts,” said Fidler.
McFarlane hopes for L’Ark to be able to create a new show about every two years. This is how long it takes, she says, to fundraise, create and tour a show. Along with funding from the Women’s Directorate, Crime Prevention Yukon and Arts Fund, an additional $40,000 has been fundraised for Darwin. The upcoming tour will cost a total of $70,000 for four performers and a stage manager. In the future, McFarlane sees L’Ark presenting to youth on the national and international levels.
“Kids are the most open and honest audience,” says Fidler. “I really love the moments of beautiful, honest communication with them and between performers.”
Of course behind all of this, and the driving force, is the enjoyment and satisfaction of creating. “When I die and go wherever I go,” McFarlane says, “I hope I go by way of the rehearsal hall and get stuck there.”