Trophy | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST


A world-roaming storytelling city pops up in Dartmouth.

Exhibit 500, Ferry Terminal Park, 88 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth

We typically understand a trophy to be something awarded with success, something you collect with an achievement or milestone, but for the organizers and participants of Trophy, these milestones may take less positive, but equally as important forms.

In a pop-up tent city, 15 storytellers sit and recount a significant moment in their lives where things completely changed. These can be small moments—"shower moments," as director/producer Sarah Conn calls them—"ah-ha!" moments of realization that can slip by unnoticed without introspection. Others are more dramatic, like one story shared by a trained opera singer who is forced to reconsider his singing career after suffering a surfing accident. Whatever the story, each one is true, and each one reflects a moment of significant change for the teller.

Visitors are invited to sit with a storyteller, listen, and can respond by writing their own story of a significant moment on a piece of paper and affix it to the wall of the tent. The work is informal, and visitors are welcome to sit in as many of the tents and hear as many of the stories as they would like, or simply peek in and explore the illuminated installation as it sits along the Dartmouth waterfront.

Trophy is an ongoing collaboration between Conn and Allison O'Connor, first organized in 2014. Since then it has travelled to several different festivals and cities, including Ottawa's Nuit Blanche and most recently the Dublin Fringe Festival in Ireland. In each iteration the organizers work closely with communities, both in terms of gathering storytellers as well as putting together a local team to help organize the event. Conn describes it as bringing a certain number of ingredients, and the rest of the ingredients are provided by the team in that particular city. The producer of Halifax Trophy is XOSECRET, spearheaded by Secret Theatre founder Dustin Harvey.

"The scale is intimate, but the intimacy is scaled out," says Harvey, describing how this large installation provides these pockets of quiet introspection and listening, all while buzzing like a hive of bees. What results, according to Conn and Harvey, is a powerful experience, a micro-city of stories that empowers both storytellers and the witnesses.

Harvey believes that this work will be a strong enticement to get visitors across the harbour, describing the beauty of the cluster of illuminated tents seen from a distance, colorful paper each new story lining their walls. "Dartmouth can often be underattended," he says, but he hopes that works like Trophy will help visitors realize that the ferry ride is worthwhile. He's also confident that visitors will feel encouraged to explore the rest of the Nocturne events on that side, hopefully investigating a second piece of intimate public theatre that he helped organize: Secret Selfies at the Alderney Gate Public Library.

So whether it's silently listening to an audio self-portrait tucked in the stacks of the library, or sitting face-to-face with a storyteller (or 15) in Trophy, Dartmouth has secrets to share this Nocturne, if you're willing to look for them.

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