Review: KATHARSIS as part of FOLDA

by Lynn on June 10, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Katharsis originally streamed from the Prairie Theatre Exchange in November, 2020. Is is a repeat of my review:

Streamed for the Festival of Live Digital Arts (FOLDA) June 9, 2021.

Written by Yvette Nolan

Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones

Original music and sound by M.J. Dandeneau

Lighting by Ksenia Broda-Milian

Film director, Sam Vint

Cast: Tracey Nepinak

This is a wonderful one person show that is a love letter to an empty theatre.

Definition: “Catharsis” (from Greek) “purification” or “cleansing” or “clarification”) is the purification and purgation of emotions — particularly pity and fear — through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.”

Katharsis was created from the start to be filmed.

The story is a love letter to the empty theatre and I think theatre in general. The stage is dark except for a ghost-light and a chair. The ghost-light in theatre tradition is the light that is put on the stage after the last person (except for the stage-door guard) has left the building. It is there to ward off ghosts or to provide light so no one will fall off the stage by accident. (Take your pick).

A woman/actress/stage-protector (Tracey Nepinak) in a flowing top and long skirt comes on stage. She is barefoot. She sits in the chair and claps her hands at the light which is beside her chair. The light turns off. She claps her hands again and the light goes on. She does this a few times, smiles at the light and finally takes it off stage.

When she returns, she says out to the darkness: “Ok, you can come back now.” Meaning this is our cue—the audience can come back now. She says she realizes that won’t be that easy because people are scared. At times she is on stage sitting in the chair, playing to the ghost light. Other times she sweeps the floor in an almost ceremonial fashion, making large circular sweeping motions, as if to get rid of the things bedevilling us.

For part of this short 15 minute piece the woman goes and sits in a seat in the empty audience.  She notes how we have always used the theatre to tell stories with lessons we then take into the world. She is that lone audience member who then goes on stage now as the actress and waits to welcome the rest back to the theatre.

I loved the simplicity of Katharsis and the ceremony of it. In her wonderful play Yvette Nolan references her Indigenous heritage and ceremonies to offer healing in times of uncertainty, stress etc. This time of the pandemic certainly has put all of us in a stressful place. Nolan also references the theatre as a place of discovery, healing and to make sense of things.

In almost every Indigenous play I’ve seen there was a ceremony welcoming everybody to come into the circle, without exception. That’s the sense I got in Nolan’s play and Tracey Nepinak’s playing. I loved this piece because of its generosity of spirit and embracing of the missing audience. Tracey Nepinak plays the woman with nuance, humour and sensitivity.  It’s beautifully directed by Thomas Morgan Jones.  

We miss being in a theatre listening to stories. This filmed production of Katharsis makes that ‘missing’ easier to bear.

Produced by Prairie Theatre Exchange and is part of FOLDA


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