Verb Theatre Society
Our Story Why We Exist
I often think that some of the most powerful theatrical experiences I’ve had over the years are the ones I didn't see coming, the ones I didn't know I needed to see until I saw them. The ones that surprised me. As a director, I still enjoy those surprises from inside a project (thankfully!) and this is what I love about what we offer at Verb. You may not know what to expect at a Verb show, but you can expect the unexpected. You can be sure we’ll surprise you.
In 2012, we embarked on a bit of an ambitious project called NOISE: A Musical for Deaf and Hearing Audiences. In a sentence, our goal had been to create a show that both Deaf and hearing audiences could enjoy and experience equally and simultaneously, without the aid of sign language interpreters or translators. In another sentence, we wanted to experiment with what Deaf performance could offer traditional theatre performance. For example, we turned sign-language poetry into both dance and song so that both hearing and Deaf audiences could access the meaning.
The show was a lot of things – wild, experimental, complex, innovative – but the thing that always sticks with me about this show was the audience response to our “approach” to the show. Some people loved it, some people hated it, some people (for better or worse) were brought to tears. What was cool, though, was that most people were surprised by it.
What’s more, half of these people were Deaf and half were hearing, and by attending the show, they were able to see the world through the other’s eyes for a bit. One mother commented that this was the first time she’d been able to attend a performance with her Deaf daughter, and though I didn’t know enough sign language to understand their conversation, they left the theatre with hands excitedly buzzing over their shared experience at our show.
Knowing that we’ve offered something to someone that they didn’t know they needed is the fuel that keeps our fire lit here at Verb.
Our Impact What We Do
Since 2008, Verb Theatre has served Calgary a variety of theatrical dishes designed to explore what’s important at that that moment for our community and beyond. The way we express this varies from year to year, show to show, but at the heart of our programming lies an interest in tapping into conversations and ideas that we think matter today and will matter even more to you tomorrow.
WE CHALLENGE THE FORM
In the age of our dearly beloved Netflix, it has become clear that theatre can still offer many things that no computer screen can. At Verb, we’re always exploring the modes of performance that serve today’s theatre goers… and maybe, more importantly, tomorrow’s. Over the years we’ve used our stage in amazing ways: non-linear structures to help an audience see the world through the eyes of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient; sign-language-based song and dance to help bring Deaf and hearing audiences together; documentary theatre to bring a personal touch to the Physician Assisted Dying debate; participatory theatre; hyper minimalism; site-specific performance, and more. We believe that the live stage has much to offer in an age where so much is digital, and a key tenant of our mission is to find and share with you the theatre of the 21st century.
WE INSPIRE CONVERSATION
Ideas have a way of entering in and out of the collective societal conversation in waves, and at Verb, we surf at the front of these waves. For example, we created a documentary theatre project about Doctor Assisted Dying a year before the issue re-entered the supreme court, and were thrilled to continue contributing to that conversation as the topic made its way to the headlines. Each play we create or produce is specifically chosen for the way it contributes to or even incites a conversation that we think is important, interesting, and imminent.
PROFESSIONAL AND INCLUSIVE
We hire professional artists to help us connect with the community at large. Many of our shows have been created with the support of community organizations that help us reach new audiences and even introduce us to individuals whose voices become part of the shows we create. Our professional artists have been critically celebrated and our award-winning teams are regularly recognized through awards and nominations at the Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards and the Betty Mitchell Professional Theatre Awards. Visit verbtheatre.com to learn about the ways our work has been celebrated.
Our Programs How We Do It
PREMIERES OF NEW (AND NEW-TO-US) PLAYS
Each year, we produce a play that is brand new to Calgary, to Alberta, to Canada, or even to the world! Some of these are important plays from across the globe that we just need to share with Calgary (like our 2015 production of Lungs by UK playwright Duncan MacMillan) and some are of our own creation, like our world premiere of Jim Forgetting by Verb’s own Col Cseke.
In the 2015/16 season, we are proud to present the world premiere of a work that’s been in development here at Verb for a few years, ever since a local actor/athlete approached us with an idea about creating a play that uses Mixed Martial Arts as a performance vocabulary. THE FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE by Col Cseke will punch, kick, and bite its way to the stage in March 2016. Featuring Justin Michael Carriere and Nathan Pronyshyn, both trained MMA athletes who also happen to be professional actors, this show is sure to be one of the most physically rigorous and electric shows you’ll ever see. This show explores, jabs, and bobs around themes of masculinity, violence, and control.
NEW PLAY DEVELOPMENT
Some of the work we want to see on Calgary stages just doesn’t exist yet, so we get to build it! In the past, we’ve developed new plays over the course of two or three years before it sees a public audience. For the future, we are building new structures of play development formally into our programming.
In 2015/16, we are thrilled to announce two new initiatives:
- PROFESSIONAL COMMISSION – In September, 2015, we announced a call for proposals from professional playwrights who are interested in creating the kind of work we do at Verb. Over the coming years, this playwright and their work will receive financial and production support from Verb as we encourage Canadian playwrights to explore new forms and modes of performance. We hope to produce this playwright’s work in a coming season.
- EXPERIMENT LAB – In September, 2015, we also announced our that 2015/16 will see Verb supporting artists in-studio with our experiment labs, designed to help artists working through creative questions and hypotheses for creating work for the 21st century. These labs will offer artists financial assistance, rehearsal space, and time to play with a creative concept before taking it to the stage. We hope that this lab will light up some diamonds in the rough that will shine in a future Verb season.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Join in the fun!
If you’ve been reading a bit about us and are interested in supporting our work, what gets us most excited is to see you out at our shows. Join the conversation, the party, the experience and enjoy the fruits of our labour. We do it for you! To learn more about our season see: http://www.verbtheatre.com/season/
Donate Your Time or Your Cash!
We’re always looking for volunteers at Verb, so if you’ve got some time to spare, we’ll happily gobble it up! If you happen to have some cash to spare, we’d be happy to hear from you so that you can support an upcoming project that interests you. All cash donations are used to support Verb programming and operations, and you’d be amazed at how far even the smallest donation can go toward our programs.