Colin Lalonde is all about pushing boundaries. He’s bringing experimental types of theatre to newbie audiences in unconventional spaces. He opened his multidisciplinary arts company and studio Studio Porte Bleue several months ago with the intent of helping artists develop.
Lalonde has a strong academic background in theatre and was inspired to start the company after spending six years in Ottawa and Europe defining and refining his own performance practice. He not only studied theatre and its practices at the graduate level, but joined some unconventional theatre groups.
“I worked with Les Ateliers du Corps in Ottawa using techniques of tai chi and chi gong and different contemporary vocal work practices. The idea is to begin with movement and words come second,” he says. “That reshaped my thinking.”
From there, he travelled to the UK and Serbia where he “had this mind expanding experience.” Lalonde says that he began “dealing with different theories and doing site specific, urban work.”
When he returned to Montreal, Lalonde wanted to do something with his newfound knowledge. “I wanted to explore my own practice and work with artists who want to go down a non-traditional path and explore different ideas,” he says. The result is Studio Porte Bleue.
So far, Lalonde worked with Jessica Rose to create a solo piece, and his eyes are always open for works that fit the studio’s mandate. “The main thing for me is that as long as you’re doing something challenging and not what you are regularly used to or if you want to develop in some new way,” he says. He even encourages people to speak to him after the show if they’re interested in working with him.
Since the company and studio are new, Lalonde is not trying to set too many rules and mandates early on. “I’m fairly hands on as a company director. I do the programming and choose what comes in. But I don’t have the foundation yet to have that five year plan. It’s kind of somewhat off the cuff right now.”
Currently, the space is hosting Theatre For the Ears: New Playwrights Reading Series. Each night features the reading of an un-produced work by a playwright from the Concordia University creative writing program using younger actors from within the John Abbott and Dawson programs. The playwrights featured are Heather Midgette, Katelyn MacMullin, Cherie Pyne, Joseph Thomas, Ally Mustmakher, and Jessica Rose. After the reading, there will be an opportunity for critical feedback about the work from the audience.
In addition to helping theatre and performance artists explore new territory, Rose’s show brought with it people who engaged with theatre for the first time. “One thing I found really great about the run is that we’ve gotten a lot of people who don’t go to the theatre and that’s really rewarding for me,” Lalonde says. “Theatre can be a bad word. It’s nice to have people who aren’t regularly going to theatre spaces and engaging and giving feedback. Sometimes its their first experience at the theatre.”
The non-traditional theatre space is part of the appeal. Studio Porte Bleue is located in a residential loft space in St. Henri. Lalonde explains, “It adds to the whole experience of going to something there, going through winding hallways and up stairs. You find your way to the space. It can be somewhat intimidating on first entry, but then the warm atmosphere of the space changes the whole experience and the audience appreciates the fact its so unusual.”
“Just feeling welcome is a big deal to us,” Lalonde says. Because the space is so small, it allows for a very intimate relationship between the performer and the viewer. “We have a good one-on-one interaction with everyone who comes. That’s hugely beneficial. People stay after shows with us and hang out with us, looking at the art. It’s been really fun.”
One last thing to note is that the space includes a gallery of visual art available for sale. “The entire space is filled,” says Lalonde. The art harmonizes with the production. Along with Theatre for the Ears, the photographs of Nina Haigh are for sale. These are urban landscapes and auroras.
Studio Porte Bleue (3035 ST. Antoine W., # 378) hosts Theatre for the Ears: New Playwrights Reading Series on March 13 – March 22. 7:30 p.m. pwyc. See website for details.