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Interview: Ensemble Theatre Company's Artistic Director: Tariq Leslie on the Return of the Summer Theatre Festival to Granville Island

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Interview: Ensemble Theatre Company's Artistic Director: Tariq Leslie on the Return of the Summer Theatre Festival to Granville Island

Very exciting news for Vancouver theatre lovers this summer! From June 15th to July 22nd, the Ensemble Theatre Company will return to the Waterfront Theatre in Granville Island to present their Summer Theatre Festival featuring 2 plays: Marjorie Prime and Pass Over. Both plays explore very relevant issues in our society that tackle meaningful situations allowing audiences to deeply explore their emotions and reflect on their thoughts. BroadwayWorld had the pleasure of speaking with Ensemble Theatre Company Artistic Director, Tariq Leslie, on the festival and his thoughts about the plays!

Ensemble Theatre Company's Summer Theatre Festival returns to Granville Island with the 2 plays: Marjorie Prime and Pass Over. Why were these 2 plays chosen for the festival?

Tariq: Both of these plays were chosen for our 2020 Summer Festival then...a little thing called, COVID-19 caused us to cancel. In the past 2 years, their relevance and poignancy have only sharpened. Pass Over is a witty and entertaining reimagining of Waiting For Godot. Though written before the horrific broadcast murder of George Floyd, the play has become more relevant and sadly, will likely be relevant for some time to come.

Marjorie Prime is a play set '5 seconds' into the future. A future where you can have your deceased loved ones replaced with A.I. replicas. The play is a funny and heartfelt look at loss and grief that explores what often happens when we try to fill a void in our life with technological 'solutions.'

Audiences will get to see you play the role of Jon in Marjorie Prime! What are you excited for audiences to see in the play?

Tariq: I'm mostly excited for audiences to see themselves in the play. Marjorie Prime has situations (in spite of it being set in the future) that audiences might find familiar and have experienced themselves. Some of the situations include loss, grief, love, things said and unsaid, and how at the end of the day, nothing will replace our human need for each other for human connection.

How has the preparation been for the plays? What were the easiest and hardest things you've encountered during the rehearsal process?

Tariq: The easiest thing has been to share the experience with friends and colleagues from prior ETC productions and welcome some new actors into the fold too. I don't think I find anything "hard" about the work...but challenging? You bet. My biggest challenge is to find the truth of a character, tease it out the writing, and find something truthful in each moment of each scene. An undefinable 'something' that doesn't feel like artifice. I love working with a director and cast that are striving to create something where an audience can almost forget they are seeing a play and instead feel like they are looking into a window showing the life of the characters. It is satisfying when the audience feels the happiness, the sorrow, the stillness of a metaphorical pin-drop, or even a measure of anxiety during an emotional scene.

Pass Over tackles issues such as racism and police violence while cleverly incorporating humor within it's story. What do you think audiences will like most about it?

Tariq: Pass Over is a powerful play that shows what an incredible "empathy machine" theatre can be if audience members are open to the experience. If one only goes by the synopsis, Pass Over can sound like grim social realism (which it has in fair measure). To only see that (or worse), avoid going to see it because you would miss a story rich in humanity and exuberant invention. Pass Over is a truly great play that will enlarge us all, civilize us to each other, and hopefully, make us more decent...more empathic towards each other.

How has the Summer Theatre Festival changed or stayed the same over time?

Tariq: It's been 8 glorious years of the festival and nearly 25 years as a company. The Summer Theatre Festival remains true to it's original vision of having fidelity to the texts and not forcing concepts onto the productions that bury the story or get in the way of exploring the human condition. We are very committed to producing stories from the best that theatre has to offer. Having said that, the Ensemble Theatre Company needs to do more to ensure the breadth of stories that we tell and the storytellers/playwrights we work from. This would better reflect the world that we inhabit (not just Vancouver's corner of the world) and allow us to embrace a plurality of ideas and perspectives.

Photo Credit: Emily Cooper

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