THUNK!theatre bakes up some community connections

By Paula Roy – 

It’s not too often that you attend a play and come home with a freshly baked loaf of bread that you’ve prepared with the actors. But that’s exactly what will happen when THUNK!theatre stages several performances of its production of bread at the Parkdale Food Centre (PFC) on May 3 and 5, as part of both The Happening festival and the Neighbourhood Arts 150 project.

THUNK!theatre was founded by Karen Balcome and Hintonburg’s Geoff McBride, who have been working together for seven years. “The name is a play on the past tense of think and also the sound of something falling down. The mandate of the company is about making mistakes, falling down and trying again,” explains Geoff, adding that their goal is to write, create, engage and have fun.

Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome of THUNK!theatre. Photo by Andrew Alexander Photography
Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome of THUNK!theatre. Photo by Andrew Alexander Photography

With an emphasis on creating theatrical productions that explore the boundaries of performance and audience interaction, THUNK! first staged bread at the GCTC as part of the 2013 Undercurrents festival. Reprising it at the PFC will help amplify the message of community that is central to the show, notes Karen. “We are inspired by the idea of neighbourhoods changing, the people who live in those neighbourhoods and their stories. At the PFC we hope to interact with some new Canadians who will bring their stories to share,” she adds.

As a prelude to the May performances of bread, THUNK! collaborated with the PFC on Bread School, a series of five hands-on bread baking workshops which explored both storytelling and the bread-making traditions of Canada, Sudan, Egypt, and Afghanistan. “We had a lovely mixture of participants, many of whom were familiar with the PFC as well as people who came because they’ve heard about our work. It was great to bring those different groups together and to introduce new people to the great work happening at the PFC, a true community hub,” says Karen.

During bread, the interactive workshop for a dozen participants will be led by two characters named Seth and Ruby who are about to leave their neighbourhood. “They are sharing their bread recipe with their friends so they can continue to make and enjoy it when Seth and Ruby are no longer there. The play is really about change and new locations,” says Geoff.

“The spirit of both characters is really playful,” adds Karen. “They are childlike in that they have an innocent perspective on some big world issues. I am excited to revisit Ruby. She’s a little bit of a control freak in the kitchen but has a lot of heart. She’s trying to find her way through big changes in her life, so I think a lot of people can relate to her.”

Geoff notes that what he loves most about Seth’s journey is that he is struggling with having a best friend who moved away from the neighbourhood. “Now Seth is grappling with leaving as well, spurring a bit of a philosophical crisis.”

As Karen and Geoff prepare to rehearse and rebuild bread for their upcoming performances, they intend to let some of the Bread School experiences percolate and see if they can tie any of those threads. “There will be a bit of an ad-lib element too as we interact with our breadmaking neighbours during the show; we like to support and encourage the audience members to participate fully, which occasionally involves some wrangling,” says Karen.

It’s a most fitting project for Neighbourhood Arts 150, which aims to bring art to unconventional spaces, as well as being an ideal event for The Happening.

“We hope people will attend one of our performances, then check out things happening at other Hintonburg businesses during the festival before coming back to pick up their freshly baked loaf,” notes Geoff.

For showtimes and ticket information, visit facebook.com/THUNKTheatre.

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