by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor
It was opening night, and it was closing night. There were 14 actors, but you didn’t know the roles they played, nor did you know the numbers or the story itself. You aren’t even granted as much as a name.
It’s this level of secrecy which remains the clear fabric of the Confidential Musical Theatre Project, which made its second Windsor appearance at the Capitol Theatre Sept. 17. Originating in Toronto in July 2014, the Confidential Project has quickly gained steam having expanded to 16 locations across North America.
A method of live theatre which practically defies tradition, actors take the stage only having met an hour before the show, presenting a musical with next to no rehearsal and not disclosing a single detail to the audience on what kind of show to expect, aside from it being a secret.
“There’s no other performances so you don’t get a redo, you only get to show it to the audience once, so you don’t get to go back and change things,” said director and 2015 BFA alumni Hailey Joy. “It’s just what you bring in that moment.”
Joy, who also serves as one of the show’s three producers, admits her role as a director isn’t as difficult since the opportunity to prepare and rehearse is purposefully absent. She said she mainly addressed any concerns the actors may have had when it came to particular scenes or character nuances. With the show operating on a fairly loose structure, most of the weight falls on the actors for they have a short amount of time just to be acquainted with one another and run through a line or two.
It’s a matter of being vulnerable to the situation, according to 2005 BFA alumni Kristen Siapas, who was among the actresses performing that night. She said actors are usually given the time to not only know their character, but discover how and what it means to tell the story through said character’s perspective. By having to think on your feet a bit more in this case, the experience is simultaneously nerve-wracking and exciting.
“When you come in, it’s just like walking into a first rehearsal or a cold read,” Siapas said. “You don’t know what the other actors are going to bring into the scene, so it’s a little improvised in that sense but it’s prepared, and it’s all very alive.”
When the actors took the minimally set stage, each with scripts at hand, what was delivered was a witty and occasionally crass musical which connected with the audience almost instantly. They frequently broke in applause while the actors bounced off each other radiantly, and upon intermission many still didn’t know what the musical was.
“We’re trying to guess what year, what era, just joking about it,” said attendee Maryanne Roy. “But it’s very funny, and the actors and actresses are doing really well.”
For those familiar with playwright Stephen Sondheim, it may have been quick for them to notice the production put on was ‘Company’, the Tony-award winning musical which revolves around a man unwilling to keep a steady relationship and his five married couple friends. But even upon knowing, the actual performance remains unchanged as the actors still operate with minimal preparedness.
While there’s plenty of room for error in traditional theatre alone, Joy believes to double down on those margins is a key part on what makes the production and the essence of the Confidential Project almost one of a kind.
“There’s definitely lots of room for error, but at the same time we kind of encourage it, because if they mess up, that’s fine, that’s great for us, it’s something exciting that will probably never be on that stage ever again,” Joy said.