Zuppa meets the market | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Zuppa meets the market

After a long search, Zuppa Theatre performs their apocalyptic 5 Easy Steps in the atmospheric Historic Farmers’ Market.

Zuppa Theatre's new play will open with Jasper (Stewart Legere), staring meditatively ahead, a piano accompanying his silence. It will be in the basement of the Historic Farmers' Market, so the lights will be dim and the audience crammed all around him, part of the scene itself. He'll start slow, with a monologue, but then the lights will cut out and he'll shoot up, ranting like a neurotic poet in his frantic and desperate opening monologue. "The end of the world!" he'll yell out later, but lower his voice immediately after. "It's kinda...weird, don'tcha think?"

5 Easy Steps (to the end of the world) is Zuppa's latest creation, a two-year-long collaboration that culminated in a last-minute decision. That decision has arguably changed the show more than anything else. "The whole point of this show from the very beginning was to do a site-specific show," explains Zuppa's Ben Stone. "To build the show in that site, so---from the beginning, you know what I mean?---so it was actually site-specific. And then we kept going into spaces, and having to leave."

Their space hunt led them to every corner in Halifax; they approached art galleries, libraries, church basements and military bases. There was a point when they were considering the old Hell's Kitchen in the basement of the Paragon, and the management was eager to have them. But, as Legere points out, "We're doing a show about the end of the world, so we can't have 'Stairway to Heaven' soundchecking upstairs every night." He thinks it over, then adds: "Although that may have been appropriate."

Finally, on October 16, they signed an agreement with the Historic Farmers' Market. "It's kind of serendipitous," Stone says. "The space that we ended up with actually is exactly what we need. It's totally bizarre that this happened."

In some ways, the space has embodied the show. Its stone walls and overhanging ducts are exactly what the three characters describe as they take turns celebrating and mourning the culmination of their lives. It's a back-and-forth, a manic-depressive rumination on life goals and self-worth, alternating between sombre monologues and frantic dances---the show's concept originated from a dance choreographed by local company Verve Mwendo. Zuppa's actor-founders, Stone and Sue Leblanc-Crawford, learned the dance and brought it back to director Alex McLean. They worked on it together, adding dialogue and forming characters, resulting in Very Secret Ceremony, produced at the Queer Acts Theatre Festival two years ago.

They then took it to Armbrae Academy, where they all taught theatre, and tried to collaborate with the students, but it didn't work. "It became difficult to build scenes and build a show," Legere explains, "when someone can't show up because they have to go to soccer and dance, and they're sick and their mom came to pick them up early."

In June, they began developing the show full-time, culminating in a premiere performance in Cardiff, Wales. Now back in Halifax, even after they've finally settled into a space, Zuppa is still making changes. "I think we have to keep finding ways to challenge ourselves so that we're doing something that is new to us, so that we're always kept slightly off-balance, so that we are always trying to catch ourselves," Stone says. "Then we won't get boring or keep doing the same thing. We'll always be sort of falling forward, into the next process."

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