Do you ever dream that you’re flying? How about falling? Do you ever try to describe a terrible nightmare to someone, only to end up sounding incredibly silly?

Our dreams always seem to make perfect sense while we’re having them, yet remain one of the most difficult experiences to put into to words. Despite this, one Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA) class decided to not only explore the phenomenon of “dream logic” in their final project, but also convey it onstage.

The resulting production, Phantasmagoria: Circus of Dreams, played in late January at the Roundhouse Community Centre as part of the 2015 Vancouver PuSh Festival, holding its own alongside some of the world’s most innovative performing artists.

What dreams are made of

The idea of translating common dream experiences into a performance piece came about through an assignment for the 23-member cohort to produce a PuSh Festival submission. The only parameters: it had to be non-narrative, driven by music and movement, and utilize projections. “From there we just got into surrealism and the dream world,” says BPA student Julian Legere, one of the show’s performers.

Idea generation aside, however, anyone who’s worked in the performing arts will know that producing a collaborative 23-member show in the span of only a few months is no easy task!

As BPA students are selected through a rigorous audition process, each cohort also brings a unique blend of talents in fields ranging from acting and dance to music and stagecraft. “We were a group of very strong willed, but also very talented artists,” says Aaron Stewart, known best for his role in the show as the enigmatic citrus-toting character “Orange Man.”

In the end, thanks to a series of preliminary deadlines (the festival required promo materials more than 5 months in advance), brainstorming sessions, collaborative image boards and workshop performances, this determined group eventually had the foundations of a cohesive and highly creative production.

Throughout the collaborative process, where ideas were flying from every angle, Julian says that the good, workable concepts were ones that simply “clicked” for everyone.

“When you have an idea that’s going to work, you just can’t argue with that,” he says.

A space to create

According to Aaron and Julian, it’s this opportunity to work outside the box of traditional live performance and reach new creative depths that sets the Bachelor of Performing Arts program apart from other more industry-focused acting and theatre programs.

At certain points, the Phantasmagoria show was even designed to come to a full stop, relying on audience members to take certain actions—like take an orange from the hand of a mysterious stranger—before the anything else could happen. “We were crashing down the fourth wall,” says Aaron, who enjoyed both the intensity and unpredictability of such moments.

Both trained actors from Cap’s Acting for Stage and Screen diploma program, Aaron and Julian say that the BPA has allowed them to not only mature as artists, but also develop technical skills—from directing to lighting design—that will help them stay employed and build connections in an unpredictable industry.

And right now, for these gentlemen, that’s the only option.

Aaron, whose other recent credits include an episode of Supernatural, likens his professional goals to any other student graduating from teacher’s college or law school. “I’m going to do what I went to school for,” he says determinedly, fully understanding the temporary nature of jobs in performing arts.

“Athletes don’t stay at the top of their game just because they’ve won the gold medal,” he says. “They train for the next Olympics.”

Julian, who has worked most recently as Assistant Stage Manager in a local production of Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap at the Royal Canadian Theatre Company says he’s learned that a rewarding career in performing arts comes down to sheer determination. “We live in a culture that tells us it’s not practical to work in the arts. You can’t listen to that,” he says. “You have to be stubborn.”

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Do you dream of a career in the spotlight? Learn more about the unique nine-month Bachelor of Performing Arts capstone program, which is offered jointly by Capilano University, Langara, Vancouver Community College and Douglas College (where it will be hosted for 2015). 

Submitted by Marketing & Communications