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SCENE SETTER: New production smashes through fourth wall

Taylor Garwood talks about Outheis and 'immersive theatre' coming to Barrie; 'The audience and the atmosphere are a huge part of the story'
Taylor Garwood and Talk Is Free Theatre bring 'Outheis' to the stage Sept. 19-23 at the Five Points Theatre in downtown Barrie.

For more than 2,500 years, live theatre has been a conduit for expression, realization, entertainment, and more. It's something that is experienced by an audience of strangers who leave connected to each other by what they have seen and felt.

But what happens when this live theatre experience is taken outside the four walls that most theatre-goers are used to? How does the experience change when the audience moves with the production through our city’s streets and the line between performance and reality is blurred?

The cast and participants of the upcoming production of Outhesis stand poised to answer these questions and more.

Presented by Talk Is Free Theatre (TIFT), Outhesis is a roving production that will take the audience out of the traditional theatre setting in an immersive and interactive experience.

Emerging artist, and recent recipient of the 2022-23 Banks Prize (Musical Stage Company), Taylor Garwood has been part of this project since its debut in Kingston earlier this year. They are returning to Barrie where they trained in acting, singing and dancing. I had the opportunity to ask them a few questions about what Outheis is all about.

Richard: Without giving too much away, what is Outheis about and what drew you to be part of this project?

Taylor: Outheis is about finding home. For me, the show makes me wonder about what home really means to me and where I go to find it. Is it a place? A person? An idea? It’s got me thinking about how I find home in the community and the art I am part of. But, what happens when we lose our home? Where do we go when we are lost? How do we get back?

I was drawn to this project for several different reasons, one of them being that I’m a big fan of Griffin Hewitt (writer of Outheis) and would gladly be part of anything he created. His writing makes you lean in and consider this world and our part in it. He has a super interesting mind and I like how he sees things. He always helps me see the things I don’t at first. His characters take you to other worlds, but leave you with something to take home.

I also love how this show takes you from truth to theatrics within seconds. The characters are all so interesting and yet, are so different from one another — if you look closely you might even recognize yourself in them. Another reason why I am drawn to this show was how it challenges me as an actor. I get to spend time with audiences face-to-face each show. It’s helped keep my improv and listening skills sharp … It really keeps me on my toes!

I also love working for TIFT. Love that I get to be in Barrie, the place I learned I wanted to be an artist. TIFT is a wonderful company to work with and is always programming interesting stories that are unique and unlike anything anyone else is doing in the country.

Richard: This is your second immersive production with TIFT. How does it differ from last season’s production of Written In Blood?

Tayor: Outheis has a smaller cast than Written In Blood, so you get to spend more time interacting with the characters and hearing their stories. Outheis gets theatrical and intimate at the same time.

Richard: During the latest run of Outheis in Kingston, did you discover any obstacles or opportunities that have been taken into consideration for the upcoming run in Barrie?

Taylor: I loved how much the audiences interacted with us in Kingston. Each group was unique so that made no two performances the same. With immersive theatre like this, the audience and the atmosphere are a huge part of the story and it's my job to ensure that we stay in the pocket of the story we are trying to tell.

Going forward to Barrie, I am considering how I can strike that balance of driving the story forward, while also letting the audiences unique energies in.

Richard: For patrons who are used to traditional theatre experiences, housed within four walls, what can they expect from this roving performance?

Taylor: I think you can expect to always be on the edge of your … “seat."

Richard: As an artist working outside the physical borders of traditional theatre spaces, what other borders in the arts would you like to see pushed or broken through?

Taylor: I’d like to see more theatre companies taking bigger risks with their programming. Of course, we want to entertain, but audiences are smart — they deserve to be challenged, involved and inspired. However, this kind of work can only be done if there is financial support and resources for this art to be created.

Affordable arts education for people of all ages. Arts education completely made me who I am today, but it can be incredibly hard to access for some, especially into adulthood. Art keeps me creative, compassionate and smart. It is never too late to start.

Richard: In the perfect world, without a budget or scheduling conflicts, what production would you like to see mounted and be part of?

Taylor: I’d like to do a production of Cats … where I play all of the parts at once.

Outheis runs Sept. 19-23, starting at the Five Points Theatre, located in downtown Barrie at 1 Dunlop St. W. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

What else is happening?

SEPT. 15: DANNY ATTACK AND ADDAM TOMPKINS — Touring Canada after a whirlwind few months performing across the U.K. and the U.S., Danny Attack comes to The Queens Nightclub in downtown Barrie with his blend of Americana and DIY punk attitude. Joining Danny across Canada is Barrie's own Addam Tompkins of Flight 97. For more information, click here. Also on the bill are Snow Days and Alex Ill.

SEPT. 16: DARK MAYHEM! A GOTH DRAG SHOW — Dream Team Events is set to cast a spell on the stage at Homestead Bakery in downtown Barrie — so grab your cobweb-covered couture for an evening as dark as your sense of humour, because life is more thrilling when it's a bit chilling. To buy tickets, click here.

SEPT. 21: MOUNTAIN HEAD — Mountain Head continues their Now You’re A Monster Tour and makes a stop in Barrie for just one night. As one of Canada’s most exciting independent acts, Mountain Head created a sound that blends psych-rock, alt-rock and elements of electro-pop into a unique and potent sonic concoction. To buy tickets, click here. Mountain Head will be performing live at The Rec Room in south-end Barrie with The Slowing, Sundown SuperHero and Kill/death Radio .

SEPT. 21: LOWEST OF THE LOW — Started in 1983 and becoming one of the most lauded independent Canadian bands and Indie Music Hall of Famers, Lowest of the Low will perform at St. Paul's Centre in Orillia with special guests Reay. To buy tickets, click here.

SEPT. 22: SCOTT FAULCONBRIDGE “STANDING UP” — International headlining comedian and one of Canada's hottest entertainers, Scott Faulconbridge brings masterful timing, quirky storytelling and quick improvisational wit to Georgian Theatre as part of this exclusive Ontario tour. Take a fresh and brilliant adventure with a comic who has delighted at the Just For Laughs Festival, starred on NBC's Last Comic Standing and creator of his own CBC's Comics and CTV's Comedy Now specials. To buy tickets, click here.

SEPT. 22: TEN FOOT POLE — A favourite on any skate or surf punk compilation, Ten Foot Pole brings their heartfelt lyrics, aggressive guitar riffs, and fast drums to The Queens Nightclub in downtown Barrie as part of their Winning Canada 2023 Tour. They are joined by special guests Drunktank, Heavy Petter and Hey Slugger. To buy tickets, click here.