About “Dear Animal”

How do you fall in love with a new landscape? The stakes are high when the theatre you make is reliant on that love, and the place proves…um…difficult? 

Dear Animal responds to the invitation by incoming Artistic Director, Barbara Adler, to me, outgoing Artistic Director and co-founder of The Only Animal, Kendra Fanconi, to write a series of letters, that document a year of falling in love with a new landscape. It follows the transition from lush, sea-level rainforest to arid high mountain scape. From my adopted homeland on the traditional, ancient and unceded territory of the shíshálh Nation and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, also known as the Sunshine Coast of BC to her new digs on the ancient territory of Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱  and Hinono’eino Nations, in Sunshine, Colorado, USA. It’s a long way from one Sunshine to the other, about 1500 miles, which is about sixhundredmillionkilometres. Give or take.

I had come to Canada 25 years prior, as an immigrant and emerging site-specific theatre maker. The Only Animal was based on my theatrical urge to create a deep engagement with place, for my audience, but also for myself. My first theatre pieces were me buried to my neck, up to my armpits, or waist-high in the earth—and ever since, theatre has always been intimately about the land and the stories it wanted to tell. With you, Animal, we explored that in theatres made of snow and ice, sand, in urban waterways, in old-growth forests, in moss and in orchards, as we sought to connect our audiences with the natural world. And now, I’m figuring out the State of the Union as I to try to figure out this strange new land.  

And,  I wanted to author these letters to The Only Animal itself, that enormous, lumbering beast who I had spent 18 years with, in our everyday work to connect with the land and theatre. Dear Animal are love letters,  full of the possibility of paradise and hell-in-a-handbasket, as I knit relationship to land, soil, animals, and the cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs culture of the U.S. of eh?

I hope you will wander with me through this Theatre of the New, with clapping grasshoppers, and dramatic lighting, lions, bears, and an unlikely axolotl. It is the Land of Extremes, located between mountain of consumerism and a valley of destructiveness, American dream and profound hopelessness, Ding-Dongs and Diet Coke. I’ll take you to the battleground for good vs evil, Sunshine vs active shooters, a gutless EV vs the Rocky Mountains, and Canadian common sense vs a tallboy beer called Junior Astronaut Juice. It’s about helplessness, family, the story that has never been told and housecows. (Let’s keep the housecow dream alive, shall we, Animal?  You have always delighted in Impossible Things.)

I invite you to read from the beginning, or jump in any time. I promise good humour, hot tips from my therapist, family stories, landscape shenanigans and the key to a gold mine. You will discover that I am both lost without you, Animal, and that we might discover the path forward and the theatrical gold that’s in them there hills.