Students flocked to the University of King’s College the week of Feb. 4 for the annual King’s Infringement Festival, a week of theatre entirely written, performed, and produced by students. A total of 27 different plays were staged over six days in classrooms, dorm rooms, and on the radio.
Such spaces as the Alex Hall dormitories demand a sense of involvement and intimacy not found in conventional theatres. Audiences saw characters four feet away, struggling with family tension, paranoia, existential crises, and metaphysical nihilism. Plays twisted expectations, rewrote well-known and loved characters into new stories, and blurred the line between spectator and spectacle.
“I like that it’s a social art form,” says Karen Gross, the festival’s producer. “The shows are always completely different depending on how the audience responds, and I don’t think that exists in other art forms—like when you go to see a movie, you don’t change the movie by how you react to it.”
It’s perhaps her favourite thing about the festival.
“I love that it’s so ephemeral, especially these shows—these shows were only performed tonight and they’re never going to be performed again, and it’s just so exciting to participate in something that only happens once.”
But Infringement is about far more than the plays themselves. Tuesday night saw a panel of four directors—Ben Harrison, Siobhan Fleury, T.J. Shiff, and Alanna Griffin—discussing the benefits and challenges of staging plays in unconventional spaces, a necessity considering what Harrison calls a “space crisis” on the King’s campus.
For Haydn Watters, the external coordinator of the festival, Infringement is all about creating a sense of community.
“Everyone in the audience is your friend, so I feel like there’s a good vibe and you’re having a good time constantly.”
But it’s not just about the audience and performers; the festival is about connecting everyone. “Every single person that has approached us, we’ve found a way to get them involved in the festival,” he says.
“It’s the ultimate in accessible theatre,” adds Gross. “You get this huge diversity of theatre happening.”
With such a dynamic crowd it’s no surprise the festival has expanded so rapidly. “We’ve got the King’s community captivated,” says a proud Watters, “and people at Dal are starting to come over and know that something’s happening here, and it’s just kinda special.”
Infringement should have no trouble expanding its reach even further next year. With such unique plays and activities there is something for everyone, for less than the amount of loose change lost in your couch.
Theatre, in general, is an extraordinary experience. “It creates this space outside of our everyday lives where we can explore thoughts or ideas that we might not be able to explore on a day to day basis” says Gross.
In such a communal, intimate environment as King’s, the effect is compounded. Audiences are not so much viewing from outside as they are experiencing from within. Whether they were passengers on a plane with Tyler Durden in Rach Klein’s Space Monkeys, or voyeurs in T.J. Shiff’s I Spy, audiences were written right into the scripts.
If you missed your chance, fear not. The King’s Infringement Festival will return next year to tear down and rebuild everything you thought you knew about theatre.