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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

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Now, NiX has been picked up by the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, which will see the production brought to Whistler.

"Our hope was always to bring it to Whistler for the Olympics, so this is kind of the big dream realized, many years later," she said.

The set is designed and built from snow and ice - approximately 20 dump trucks worth - by Carl Schlichting, a member of the Canadian Snow Sculpture Team who has come to Whistler many times to take part in snow sculpting competitions. The set will be housed in a 44-foot geodesic dome, which allows for some temperature control and protects the structure from direct sunlight.

From a practical standpoint, Fanconi and the rest of The Only Animal crew are acutely aware of the risks that come with staging a play in the great outdoors during a Canadian winter. But they seem to have developed some systems to help mitigate those variables.

The Only Animal costumes the actors in such a way that they can perform in temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius, while the audience sits snugly in blankets and sheepskin seat covers.

A few years ago, The Only Animal production team scouted a variety of sites throughout Whistler, going as far as the Callaghan Valley before finally deciding that Lost Lake in the winter months would provide the perfect feeling of desolation that fits with the icy apocalypse of their storyline. Plus, they liked that people could cross-country ski to the performance.

Aside from the spectacular setting of Lost Lake, and the unique staging, complete with a giant slide and hidden components that are excavated from the site during every performance, NiX also has a solid storyline, featuring a cast of three central characters left behind after an icy apocalypse: an arsonist, a woman who is 10 and a half months pregnant, and a young girl.

"It is a story, there is a script - it isn't an abstract performance. But it is very integrated into the images and materials themselves... It's kind of a strange love story that does, in the end, engender thaw in all three of the characters."

Fanconi returned to Whistler just last year to workshop a part of NiX with an audience, but since then, the production has changed pretty drastically, with a smaller cast and altered script and storyline. And though they've successfully performed NiX in its entirety to an audience, Fanconi said the production may still continue to change and evolve before its Whistler debut in nine-months time.