'Til Death (Do Us Part) is a series of sketches centred on the trials and tribulations of the archetypal lover and the services provided by Canada’s Cupid Corporation, a company that claims it can make anyone lovable.
Creator, director and performer Lauren Griffiths talks about the process of creating this fusion of comedy and theatre.
What inspired the idea for ‘Til Death (Do Us Part)?
In the final year of the acting conservatory program at York University you have to create an archetype piece. It’s only supposed to be 10 to 12 minutes long and we had to research all different kinds of archetypes. I got wrapped up in searching about the “lover” archetype.
It was so interesting – the idea of someone obsessed with being in love, so much so, that they will search until they die. I also learned the main fault of the lover archetype is that they will change themselves to suit another person, so that person will love them. I thought it was so interesting, because it’s true. People are like that. People get so obsessed with the idea of having to be with someone, or the idea that being alone is a bad thing, that they look that hard and change themselves that much. With this show, I created the idea of a facility that does that for people.
This show is a collective creation. What has the creative process been like for you?
We’re still kind of going through it, which is insane. The process is never-ending. I love creating with a group of people. I like to write things on my own, but I always find I only get so far and then I don’t know what to do with it, so I take it into a room and I’ll express what I have and instantly so many people have amazing ideas that I just couldn’t have come up with on my own.
The goal with ‘Til Death (Do Us Part) is to bridge the gap between Toronto’s comedy and theatre scenes. How do you feel you have achieved this?
Well, to be honest, I’m not 100 per cent sure if I’ve achieved it yet. That will sort of come when the show is on. We’ll see who comes out and we’ll see what kind of response we get from different communities.
I know people in the theatre community and I know people in the comedy community and there’s not many overlapping people that I know. Even in this process, I’m working with two people who I just graduated from Second City with, and two people who are part of the theatre community – one I know from theatre school and one I know from working on Aaron Jan’s play Rowing in the summer. They all have very different styles and just watching them work together is so interesting already. I just hope we’ll have different people come out and enjoy the different elements.
What have been your greatest challenges writing, directing and acting in the same piece?
I feel like it’s hard to have the outside eye that you want to have sometimes. We have a lot of choreographed scenes and group scenes, and not being able to sit on the outside and watch it is sometimes difficult. But it’s kept our vision very strong. It just grows more and more as we create the show – everyone’s idea of what’s going on gets stronger, and I think that was one of the things that was a little bit challenging at first. I felt like because I was acting, directing and writing all at the same time, I knew the world so much more than everyone else, so sometimes it stopped me from just being present in the room and creating it with them fresh the way they were seeing it. But the team has been very helpful with that. They’ve all picked up on the vision and they can now direct me, or they can get up and do something and know exactly what I’m talking about.
Why is it important for you to stage this work in Toronto today?
I think that Toronto has two very separate theatre scenes that I’m involved in. I like to go watch theatre, but I also like to go watch comedy and very often I don’t find the two together. I think it’s very easy to bridge the two and I just would like to see more of both within each. I just thought, “What’s something that I really enjoy that’s fresh and new?” So this is my baby, I guess.
What do you hope for audience members to take away from the piece?
I hope they feel they are part of the experience when they come in and when they leave. It’s a very interactive piece. The idea is that everyone who is there is a part of this presentation that’s going on. I want people to be a part of the experience, but enjoy themselves as well. There are some moments that are more grounded and intense, some that are wacky and fun, and some that are creepy and satirical. I just hope they go along for the whole ride.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Presented by Filament Incubator, ‘Til Death (Do Us Part) plays at the Monarch Tavern from Nov. 10-19. For more information, visit http://filamentincubator.wixsite.com/home/til-death.