Move over, Toronto and New York! Experimental theater is drawing crowds on Pelee Island.

Experimental theater is drawing crowds on Pelee Island. In Alchemy, the final performance of the Stone & Sky Music & Art Series, a cadre of actors and musicians took the agency of transmutation to a new and exciting level.

Toronto actor and director Alix Sideris choreographed a combination of fiery alchemy with the intention of encouraging transformation among those in attendance.

“Less of a show and more of an event,” the performance invited audience participation. Patrons received a lighted candle and were asked to think of something to let go of in order to effect personal change. Spoken word artist, Gustave Morin, encouraged transmutation  with a Ferlinghetti-style explosion while guests whispered into the ear of the alchemist, a First Nations artist who turned each confession into a potent symbol on canvass.

After placing our candles and passing a fire smoldering in the middle of the stage, we took our seats on tree stumps, tables, or chairs. Dancers floated around us wearing translucent burka-like robes, waving scarves and moving ethereally. They conveyed  a ballet of emotions–those they were ready to cast off in order to become anew. Musicians played soulfully as the dancers writhed, sank, pirouetted, and glided among the audience.

Enter the alchemist carrying the canvass of symbols. Standing on the ledge of the quarry, a blues singer heralded the glory of alchemy and change as the dancers handed over their scarves to her–a metaphor for a new beginning. The motif of change culminated with the dancers shedding their airy costumes and taking on new ones.

A powerful opera singer emerged, her voice filled with sorrow, her hands bound by a rope. Still tethered to her own pain, she was set free, a symbolic nod to the encouragement often needed to undergo a metamorphosis. In the climax of the piece, audience members wiped out the symbolic canvass with white paint. Rebirth.

After a reading of a poem commemorating the letting go of something painful, the musicians struck up a jazzy number and ushered all out to “have their pie” made by an island resident. A delicious celebration of permutation!

An event worthy of Franz Kafka, the experience was a thought-provoking, multidimensional piece of performance art–right here in the middle of Lake Erie!

Betsy Miller
The Island Spectator