C2C has some friends over for 4Play

Tara Bradbury
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Theatre company celebrates 10 years with annual four-director, four-writer, four-cast, four-play stage event

Andy Jones, Amy House (centre) and Kay Anonsen perform during C2C's 4Play5 event. — Photo courtesy Doug Allen


C2C theatre company has some great plans for its 10th anniversary, starting with a little 4Play. They're good at it, and they should be, by this time. They're even able to do it quickly - and with 12 people involved.

4Play is C2C's annual fundraiser and season launch, in which four writers, four directors and four groups of actors create four short plays in just 24 hours.

This year, it'll begin with suggestions of a first line, a prop and a sound cue, collected from the public. 4Play producers will choose one of each and give them to the writers on Friday night. The writers - Steve Cochrane, Justin Simms, Berni Stapleton and Darryl Hopkins - must each create a 10-minute scene incorporating all three elements overnight, and rehearsal begins Saturday morning.

Saturday night, the four short plays will be presented at the LSPU Hall, ready or not.

"The emphasis of 4Play is put on a good-vibey celebration of culture," explained Neil Butler, a C2C regular performer and director who is hosting the event. "To hit that on the head, this year we've invited other theatre companies who have helped us grow to get involved."

Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, Engine Productions, Nothing On Productions and New World Theatre Project will take part in 4Play by each presenting teams of a director and two actors.

It's a way to incorporate a celebration of the theatre community into the anniversary event, explained C2C's artistic director, Sandy Gow.

"Instead of handpicking individual actors and directors as we have in the past, we decided to ask companies if they'd like to take part in the event under their own banner. We figured the worst thing that could happen is that they would say no. Luckily for us, we ended up with four amazing guest companies," Gow said.

"We're enjoying finding all the connections between us and the guest artists. It's really exciting to have someone like Petrina Bromley, who's been in several C2C Productions over the years, directing Artistic Fraud's team in 4Play after just closing 'Under Wraps' at the Hall."

Started by Brad Hodder, Charlie Tomlinson and Jordan Flynn in 2003, C2C has a mandate to produce professional-quality, modern theatre in St. John's; something, Butler says, for which it's harder to get funding than original, locally-based or classic theatre productions.

Over the past decade, the theatre company has mounted plays of all genres, like "Nurse Betty," "Autobahn" and "The Shape of Things," all by Neil Labute; Daniel MacIvor's "Never Swim Alone," Jez Butterworth's "Parlour Song," and Yasmina Reza's award-winning comedy "Art."

The aesthetic of C2C shows is usually simple, with the stress on the scripts and performers.

"Sometimes there might be a big square of tape on stage and that's our playing area," Butler said. "It might sound a bit pretentious, but it's exciting."

Stage adaptations of the works of stories by Canadian children's author Robert Munsch quickly became a Christmas tradition, and last month, C2C created their own versions of Munsch tales and took them on the road for three weeks, marking the first time original C2C pieces were shown outside the metro area.

"We wanted to feature stories set in Newfoundland or similar coastal landscapes, and stories about family and friends," Gow said.

"We knew we wanted to use 'Love You Forever,' then the release of 'Give Me Back My Dad!,' set in Rigolet, gave us a reason to get going. Once we created "Love You Forever and More Stories by Robert Munsch," the Arts and Culture Centre wanted to include it as part of their classroom project series, an initiative that links curriculum and live theatre for students across the province.

"To date, it has been our biggest tour and the reaction has been amazing. The first audience was a sold-out school show in Labrador City, and the kids were fantastic. We've had so much great feedback that we'll be planning another tour for schools around the province as soon as possible."

C2C's longevity amongst theatre companies that come and go after one or two productions comes down to a clear mandate, Butler believes, and a willingness to experiment and produce pieces suggested by others. The company is now at a point where it pays its cast and crew professional fees, which Butler and Gow say is a big deal and exciting for them.

Their next production will be a remount of "Art," starring the same cast as the 2012 original version: Butler, Dave Sullivan and Rory Lambert, as longtime friends Serge, Yvan and Marc.

Their relationship struggles when Serge shells out $200,000 for a painting that appears to be no more than a blank canvas with a few lines, leading to a conflict over what constitutes art.

4Play, though it's been around for 10 years, is always new and alway exciting, just because of the fast-pace nature of the event, Butler said, and this year will be no exception.

"You never know what's going to happen, if the scenes are going to fly or crash, which is a laugh in itself."

Tickets for 4Play are $20 ($15 for students and seniors) and are available at the LSPU Hall box office, by calling 753-4531 or online at www.rca.nf.ca. Admission at the door is $24.

To submit suggestions for a first line, a prop and a sound cue, email CBC's Weekend Arts Magazine at wam@cbc.ca with "4Play Suggestion" in the subject line. Winners will receive a catalogue for the ongoing Mary Pratt exhibition at The Rooms, or a C2C Theatre 10th anniversary T-shirt.

tbradbury@thetelegram.com Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: C2C, C2C Theatre, Productions and New World Theatre CBC The Rooms

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Rigolet

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