When theatre and architecture merge

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sana Samanian, the editor of Ryerson University’s  325+ architecture magazine, took in the unique theatrical-architecture collaboration Blue Note this week and filed this review. 

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Since time immemorial, we have constructed walls and defined boundaries to create spaces. What is often forgotten in the process is the experience of the space as whole, literally and metaphorically. What happens if the boundaries are challenged?

In this time of collaboration amongst artists in various disciplines, Blue Note proves to be not only a successful theatrical performance, but an experience in which the audience is integrated and even written into the play. Created by Brian Quirt and Martin Julien, Blue Note is a character study of vocal ensembles. The collaboration begins with musicians, vocalists, actors and invites architects and artists to contribute in what seems to be a casual rehearsal.

The theatrical company Nightswimming has led the development of Blue Note, while PLANT Architects has created a spatial setting to allow the audience access to the performance. As the audience enter the main gallery of Harbourfront Centre, they find themselves on the set witnessing a rehearsal. Actors, musicians, and architects have successfully vanished the line between audience and the progress of a play. “Music won’t be made, but maybe music can be conjured, if you know how,” reads the programme notes.

The architects have transformed the gallery into a metaphoric environment that supports the narrative content of the piece, in which rehearsal becomes the play and set becomes the seats. The tangible visual, acoustical and interactive details of the set encourage the encounter between actors, audience and installations. “The project was run on a very limited budget,” says Lisa Rapoport, one of the principals of PLANT. “So we had to find creative ways to design the details and achieve the desired setting.”  The play merges words and music to narrate a story about loss of a friend, while color narrative of the walls, written texts, designed light fixtures and oval shaped acoustic refraction installation set the mood.

Blue Note creators, actors, and set designers have taken the grey area between the commonly known boundaries of public and private space and successfully turned it into a theatrical set, in which the audience is captivated by the actors and space. As the crowd exit the gallery the text reads, “Unlike directions, a map is neither linear nor sequential. And there are always unknown territories, left for the travelers to explore on their own, if they wish to.”

photo by Peter Legris