After a disappointing premiere at the 2013 Toronto and Hamilton Fringe Festivals, Here, written and directed by Aaron Jan, is revived and remounted in Theatre Aquarius’ Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre, solidifying to audiences that, redemption truly is never illegal.
Here chronicles the life and experiences of previously injured dancer and nutrition major, Emily Peters (Jacqueline Byers) over a fifteen month period. As Emily’s dance career and life is seemingly falling apart, that of her roommate and supposed “best friend,” Heather (Molly Thomas) seems to be coming together (aside from the fact that she “can’t turn”). In an attempt to fix the hole in the wall of their apartment, Emily meets Ken (Gregory Solomon), an eccentric contractor and aspiring filmmaker, desperate to land his first gig installing drywall. Each of the three characters strives for their own form of redemption and feelings of acceptance –Heather is frantic to prove her worth within her dance class, Ken wants nothing more than to win the prestigious and competitive film contest and make it to New York City, and Emily, after attempting suicide upon realizing she will never dance again, seeks to rehabilitate her life, and finally feel like she belongs.
Having seen the original production, I was in awe of the show’s transformation and reworking from scratch, and was elated with its new, hopeful ending. I was most impressed with the multi-media portions of the piece, contributed by Video Designer, Carl Kocur. Live projections and still photos act as the backdrop of most scenes (my favourite being the restaurant scene), which add the perfect touch of realism, leaving the audience feeling as if they are a part of the action.
A completely new style of dance is incorporated by Choreographer, Cassandra Bowerman, showing her talent and versatility, and is flawlessly employed by Molly Thomas who brings it to life with a new and exciting energy.
Writer/Director Aaron Jan has a beautiful way of creating authentic and fragile characters, relatable to his audience, young and old alike. Both Byers and Solomon revisit and rediscover their characters, giving excellent and incredibly real performances.
Here perfectly captures the very real struggle faced by young artists trying to get started, with specific reference to the schooling process and “BFA versus BA” tossup. The fact that this outstanding show was created by a group all under the age of 24 is inspiring and sends out a strong message. Here is a beautiful multi-disciplinary piece which left me touched and truly inspired. Be on the lookout for all things Aaron Jan!