Most Canadians might not admit to it, but we’re fascinated by America. Sure, I’m basing this on informal, anecdotal evidence, and my own often-fraught love of the U.S. of A., but why wouldn’t it be true? America captivates our imaginations – maybe because we don’t quite “get” it. James Long, co-director of Vancouver’s Theatre Replacement, shares this fascination. So much so that the theatre company created a multi-media show, The Greatest Cities in the World, based on Americans talking about their homeland: specifically, stories of towns in Tennessee named after the cities of London, Paris, Rome Moscow and Athens.
“It only takes six hours to drive across the state,” says Long, “but it’s an unbelievably beautiful place – the eastern part is super humid and rainforest-like and the west is dryer and flatter.” The journey plunged Long and fellow theatre company members armed with video cameras and digital recorders, into conversation with a broad cross-section of people, all with something to say to these friendly Canadians.
“America is fascinating, they kind of run the world but their foreign policy is vastly different from that of the people who live there,” says Long. “There’s a population that thinks differently than what’s reported.”
The Greatest Cities in the World brings these personalities to the stage alongside a contemplation of what performance is in this day and age, playing with conventions of docu-drama and how to portray the “real world” in a theatrical setting. All the words spoken on stage are taken verbatim from transcripts of conversations, but delivered in a baroque style, with video and music accompaniment.
“I think we’re all, in my generation of theatre makers, figuring out what it means to use the well-made play and what the perfect text really is,” says Long. “In this world of blogging and commenting, the classic text doesn’t necessarily fit.”
The Greatest Cities in the World
June 10–11 at Cinquième Salle, Places des Arts
Part of the Festival Transamériques