Two large and really talented contingents have come to Hamilton to perform at The Fringe with Aaron Jan, which speaks volumes about what to watch and whom to watch out for.
By Kevin Somers
Published July 25, 2015
Sometimes, I'll read the short blurb in The Spectator's (great) Fringe guide, but usually walk into shows noing nothing, except its most critical elements; length and genre. The 10 / 10 / 10 Project is very ambitious and intricate. In this instance, I wish I'd read the playbill from cover to cover twice before seeing it. Part of it:
In April 2014, 10 emerging writers from across Canada wrote 10 pieces inspired by the prompt "There's something here that shouldn't be." These pieces were then given to 10 emerging composers who composed musical tracks based on the essence of the writing they were given. Each piece of music was then matched with one of 10 emerging choreographers, who created a movement piece inspired by what they received.
The writers then returned to view these dance creations and each wrote a final piece inspired by the essence of the dance they had been assigned. During this process, none of the artists were allowed to talk to each other about the work they had exchanged, creating an ego-less and random creation environment.
Now, the 10 final pieces of writing, 10 pieces of choreography, and 10 pieces of music have all been combined to form one piece of interdisciplinary dance-theatre, facilitated by a director who is unable to speak with any of the creators as well, forced to find the through-line based solely the presentation of work itself.
10/10/10 is inspired by the idea of imagined community: that even if we do not speak the same language or live in the same space, we can still find hopes, dreams, despairs and inspirations from the work of another who we may never meet. What you are seeing tonight is a culmination of the work of 43 emerging artists, many of whom are seeing the piece in its entirety for the first time. Thank you for coming to our lab!
With background knowledge, my perspective of the show went from, "What is this?" to, "This is cool."
After taking in The 10 / 10 / 10 Project Tuesday evening, I was enjoying refreshments at The Baltimore House, when Aaron Jan, a significant source of the energy behind the really big show, sat at the next stool with take-out food from another restaurant. Lucky me.
We had met briefly twice, so between gulps of food and (great) Fringe Beer, it was nice to chat with the friendly, energetic, young man. It turns out Aaron has another ambitious show at The Fringe; he also wrote and directed Rowing, which is playing at The Staircase.
I enjoy picking brains and Aaron's seemed ripe, so requested an interview. We met Wednesday, just before I saw Rowing (reviewed by Daniel W. O. Smith here). Predictably, the conversation was unpredictable, lurching all over pell-mell, like rowing in untamed water, and I often had to request that he slow down or repeat himself. As an armchair physician, I felt obligated to ask Aaron if he'd ever been diagnosed with ADD by a real one. "No," he said, smiling, "but I was gifted. In Grade 3, I could fit the right blocks in the right holes, so they, like, put a label on me."
I really like the young man, but, like everyone of his vintage, Aaron's conversation is, like, peppered abundantly with "like." So, for clarity and my sanity, I've, like, taken the liberty of, like, editing out all the, like, "likes," like.
He's in Toronto now, but Aaron is a local lad. "I grew up in Westdale: privilege," he said. Jan is prone to tangential, quirky, funny comments, "I'm atypical Asian, strong in English, but weak in math."
His mother, a retired nurse, read to him from an early age. As well, being in the gifted program meant early exposure to Shakespeare and other great literature. He started writing ambitiously very young. At 13 he had written an 800 page manuscript for a fantasy novel about young people trying to save the world. "There were lots of fights in it," he said laughing.
"I love fights. For me, a play has to have at least one of the following: comedy, nudity, or fights. Kat Sandler is my favourite playwright." He went on gushing and gesticulating about Cockfights.
After Westdale, Jan attended Ryerson to study acting, but got kicked out after a year because, "I couldn't act." You can't keep a bad actor down and he studied writing and directing for theatre at York, where he found his calling.
We talked about writing idiosyncrasies and his other "obsessions:" coming-of-age stories, achieving the impossible, winning / losing, and creating a niche, indie theatre scene in Hamilton for the same demographic he writes for; 15 -25 year olds. He wants to come back to the Hammer.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "In ten years, I want to see how it will have changed."
Aaron Jan doesn't sleep, literally. "I stay up all night writing. I'm never content or stagnant. I'm always asking, 'How can I make this better?' My parents instilled a work ethic in me."
The following evening, I was at The Staircase again, enjoying a beverage, waiting to see Oneymoom (another good story), when Jan came in wailing like a drama king, "We got destroyed in View." Then, scarcely taking a breath, he assured the crowd, "We'll be better tonight."
I had no doubt. He is a bright, earnest, young playwright, coming of age, working day and night, night and day to find his voice. There are brilliantly funny moments in Rowing. Two large and really talented contingents have come to Hamilton to perform at The Fringe with Aaron Jan, which speaks volumes about what to watch and whom to watch out for.
You can read all the RTH Fringe 2015 reviews.
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