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The NiX big thing for Whistler

Site-specific theatre finds a new home on a stage of ice and snow at Lost Lake during the Olympics



Athletes won't be the only ones taking to the snowy slopes of Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, a team of talented actors is also set to star on their own special stage of ice and snow as part of next year's Cultural Olympiad.

Last week, VANOC announced the first round of projects to be included in the 2010 Cultural Olympiad program. Among the 600 projects that will take place at 50 venues throughout Metro Vancouver and the Sea to Sky corridor is one special site-specific theatrical production, entitled NiX, which will grace the shores of Lost Lake from Jan. 22 until Feb. 27.

Kendra Fanconi is the co-artistic director of the Vancouver-based theatre society, The Only Animal, and the playwright and director of NiX. The Only Animal is responsible for Other Freds, a production that took place on Granville Island docks and the waters of False Creek in 2005. Fanconi also worked on The One That Got Away, a play set in a swimming pool, before starting The Only Animal. Both are site-specific productions, which Fanconi specializes in.

"We're a zero-impact company and normally theatre creates a lot of waste - it's quite common to see a five-tonne truck leaving from a strike to go to the dump because no one can afford to store flats, and all kinds of problems with making things quickly and destroying them quickly," Fanconi explained.

With site-specific theatre, the idea is that you can work with existing objects and places, or like with NiX, which uses a "material-based investigation," their form of theatre is low-impact.

"The idea for NiX actually came from discussion when the bid book was going in for the Olympics, and at that time... I thought, 'well, wouldn't it be fun to do a piece with snow and ice?'"

Fanconi actually got the chance to build her theatre out of a snow and ice when she was invited to Calgary by the Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP) to create a site-specific piece. There was an ice rink right outside the theatre, and the ATP wanted a performance to take place in February, so Fanconi seized the opportunity to make her idea a reality.

After spending hundreds of hours on script writing, design meetings and rehearsals, The Only Animal premiered NiX at ATP this February, where it ran for almost a month and was met with a very warm reception from audiences.

"We got really great reviews and preview press," Fanconi said. "Whereas Vancouver and the West Coast has a little bit more of a tradition of site-specific theatre, Calgary didn't have any at all. We were the first site-specific show that had ever come there."