BWW Interviews: Mitchell Cushman talks TERMINUS and the Off-Mirvish Series
Terminus was a smash hit at this year’s Summerworks Festival, receiving raves from critics and audience members alike. It is also the inaugural offering in the new ‘Off-Mirvish Season’, an exciting theatrical initiative that has Mirvish Productions presenting bold and original works very different from what they have done in the past.
Terminus is described as a ‘spoken word Irish rap Opera’ and was called an ‘absolute must-see’ by The Toronto Star. Audience members will be invited up onto the stage at The Royal Alexandra Theatre for this unique and immersive theatrical experience. The show chronicles one supernatural night in Dublin and is told through three separate stories and three performers. David Mirvish has said that he believes the stage at The Royal Alex is perfect for this show, as it will be set amongst the backdrop of old chandeliers and gorgeous photographs from the city’s historical past.
The entire Terminus team returns for this remount, which features performances by Maev Beaty, Ava Jane Markus and Adam Wilson. BWW sat down to speak with director Mitchell Cushman, who’s company ‘Outside the March’ originally presented the show at Summerworks. He discusses the unique nature of this type of theatre, his feelings about the new Off-Mirvish Season and explains why he thinks everyone will enjoy Terminus:
Congratulations on having Terminus back on a Toronto stage! How’s it going so far?
Great! The original production was only about three months ago so we’ve been working hard to get it back up to speed. We have such a talented trio of performers to work with that it’s been a never-ending treat. They really do all the heavy lifting in this process.
How would you describe Terminus to someone who has never heard of it?
I’ve been calling it a lyrical Irish rap opera. It’s based in Irish story-telling, so if people are used to going to see a play that has a traditional stage and an elaborate set this will be a very different experience. It’s more like telling a story around a campfire. It’s got larger than life scenarios but they unfold in the imagination of the audience and it is a very intimate experience. At The Royal Alex we will have the audience sitting up on the stage and the proximity to the performers (as well as their proximity to The Edge of the stage) will really come into play.
Have you ever had something outrageous happen as a result of the non-traditional staging? Has anyone ever tried to join the show?
We’ve never had any problems with the audience trying to get directly involved with the show, and in this production the delineation between the performers and the audience is pretty clear. One of my last projects was Mr. Marmalade and we did it inside a kindergarten classroom. During that show people would get a bit more involved. No matter how the show is set, we always have careful guidelines to ensure that the performers are always in control.
What is it about site-specific theatre that appeals to you?
It’s a big part of our company’s mandate to present works which harness the power of theatre as an event. There are any number of ways to do that, a great script can do it all by itself. For us we want to use creative and different locations to help create the feeling of an event.
Terminus will likely be exposed to a very different type of audience demographic as part of the Off-Mirvish Season – do you think they will embrace it as openly as the Summerworks audience did?
We certainly hope so and I’m excited to find out! One of the things that was really exciting about doing this show at Summerworks was the broad demographics to which is appealed. It’s risky and graphic but I found people of all ages and walks of life really connected to the story telling aspect of the show. At Summerworks one of the things which was most interesting to me was watching the way the audience responded to the show and observing how they hung on the every word of the performers. We’re hoping it will be the same at The Royal Alex and we’re excited to share it with more people.