Rising Sun Theatre presents Sparks: an original play about friendship and connection

The Cause

Rising Sun Theatre, established in 2004, is a barrier-free, intergenerational ensemble providing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to have their voices heard and stories shared through the practice of theatre. Local professional theatre artists collaborate with ensemble members to create original plays and performances in Edmonton. We aim to connect with the larger community by portraying both the specific experiences of our members and the essential human experiences we all share.

Our new play, Sparks, will explore themes of friendship and connection – from fleeting moments to lasting relationships and everything in-between. Guided by local artists including Rapid Fire Theatre improvisers, storytelling experts, musicians, and choreographers, ensemble members will express their ideas through physical movement and dance, gesture, mask, music, rhythm and sound. The play-making process will focus on our physical bodies as a means for cultivating stories, concentrating on what our bodies can do and express, more than words. Creating the play together will be fun, energetic, and creative with lots of opportunities to laugh and support one another.

The result? A dynamic 45-minute performance of vignettes featuring stories told through movement and dance, performer-created sound, and live improvisation. Sparks will debut at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, accessible to all audiences, and will offer something for everyone!

Rehearsals begin in late September 2016. Ensemble members will develop their skills in movement and improvisation, and explore thematic characters and stories. Over the coming months, scenes will be written and rehearsed. By March 2017, the script will be finalized and the show rehearsed in full. Set, costumes, lighting and technicians will be secured. Dress rehearsals and performances will take place at the end of May 2017.

Funds will be put towards rental of rehearsal space, artists’ fees, and production elements.

Who Will it Benefit?

There are nearly 10,000 adults with developmental disabilities in the greater Edmonton area. Some members of this population are ignored, bullied, exploited or silenced. Theatre can be a way of expressing dreams and feelings for this community, as well as a way to develop confidence and communication skills. The objectives of Rising Sun and its plays are to break down barriers and stereotypes between those with developmental disabilities and society, and to raise awareness of common experiences and issues.

Sparks offers members of Rising Sun the chance to explore new approaches to developing performance material. Exploration through physical movement is new territory for some, and will be adapted to suit each actor’s skills and abilities. For group members who struggle with verbal expression, this approach will allow freedom to communicate through physicality. For those who are verbally adept, it presents an opportunity to develop skills in other forms of expression and communication. Above all, members will be encouraged to offer their unique ideas and experiences – and see it all come to life on-stage and share it with an audience.

Through theatre practice, Rising Sun members develop personal confidence, pride, self-discipline, communication and negotiation skills, creativity and self-expression, and awareness of issues affecting people with disabilities. Professional artists who work with Rising Sun, including applied theatre specialist Dhana Cartmell, and actor/clown Demmi Connolly, increase their valuable leadership and artistic skills in community-based theatre and collective creation, and deepen their understanding of the needs and aims of this particular community.

Rising Sun performances offer audiences an opportunity to meet people with disabilities, and to celebrate their talents and creativity. Performances are lively and encourage input and participation from audience members in a low-pressure, inclusive, and accessible space. Audiences enjoy mingling with actors over refreshments after each show.