There will be portable video devices. You will walk. You will be wearing headphones. You will be following a path duplicated on the screen in front of you. Live actors will materialize as you make your way through this promenade-style theatre experience—and they may or may not be same characters as those on your screen. This will not be a normal, sit-still-and-watch-the-action theatre experience.
You may even be complicit in the mystery.
Cat Killer is based on a real-life event from the 1990s—the unusual disappearance of more than 400 cats during a three-month period in the Nepean region of Ottawa. Written by Presentation House Theatre’s Kim Selody, this multimedia production is a collaborative effort between Capilano University Theatre students, Germany’s Theater Wrede and Presentation House.
Because the piece requires a large cast, Selody contacted Cap’s Theatre program Coordinator, Gillian Barber, about including Capilano students. In the end, a combination of thirteen Acting for Stage and Screen students and Musical Theatre students joined the cast.
Third-year Acting for Stage and Screen student Alexa Houle plays Theresa Haber, a lead character who has lost her cat. The story follows her as she attempts to solve the whodunit, interacting with characters like her father—a scientist who is studying the relationship between virtual realities and psychopathic behaviour—and Lorne, a young video game creator.
“It’s a mind-blowing experience as far as theatre goes,” says Alexa.
The play immerses its audience in a virtual reality, while critiquing the experience at the same time, thus probing the long-debated link between video games and violence. “As you are watching the production, you are confronted with the fact that you are glued to a screen for an hour,” Alexa explains. “There’s a lot of subtle social commentary on the use of screens in our modern, technologically-based society.”
Taking the plunge
Alexa says being involved in Cat Killer has shown her the value of making connections from her educational life and applying that to a real-world, professional environment. She says that working with professional actors outside of a school environment has given her a “new perspective” on both acting and the collaborative process.
“I really feel my opinion is valued and my input is applied,” Alexa says, noting that she been able to influence the direction of her character. “That experience has been invaluable for me,” she adds.
Alexa believes the reason this production is so interesting for audiences is that it brings them inside the heads of various characters, thus giving them a whole new perspective on their own thoughts and surroundings. “Audience members will be immersed in a type of multimedia theatre production they’ve never seen before,” she says. “They can expect to have their idea about themselves and about society confronted.”
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