When trying to come up with a premise for a play, writer Brandon Barrett did what we all do when in the throes of procrastination—he journeyed down the internet rabbit hole.
Only, in this case, watching YouTube videos of people pretending to be time travellers yielded something productive.
"I read an article about this growing subculture on YouTube of people claiming to be time travellers from the future," says Barrett (who, full disclosure, is a reporter for Pique). "Some of these videos—even though they're poorly produced and have holes in them—get 10 million views ... They're always guys. These men will usually cover their face, which is funny because if you were a time traveller from 500 years in the future, no one is going to recognize you."
But he became interested in exploring what someone's motive might be to want to time travel in the first place—and the roots of All Relative: A Space-Time Odyssey were planted.
Co-written with Holly Clark, the production follows a group of characters who are attending a time-travel conference in the middle of nowhere, Illinois with wildly different motives for being there. One man desperately wants to change his past, another simply wants to please his girlfriend—and gain a little social media fame. At least two characters are there for the love of the topic.
"I wanted to write something that took this sci-fi trope and treated it in a realistic way," Barrett says. "Time is this one precious commodity we all have, but it always runs out. The play has to do with the nature of time and looking at what it means and how we spend this commodity."
The production was the mainstage event at The Flag Stop Theatre and Arts Festival on the floating dock at The Point Artist-Run Centre in August.
Since then, the production, directed by Angie Nolan, has been preparing for a two-night run at The Maury Young Arts Centre, thanks to a partnership with Arts Whistler.
"Being outside with the floating dock and the mountains behind you, it's probably the most beautiful stage I have ever performed on," says Louise Robinson, one of the actresses in the play. "But it does have its challenges. Last year, at rehearsal there was no wind at all, then the production was really windy. It was the same this year."
But, she adds with a laugh, "projecting is never a problem for me. It's about gauging different volume levels."
Moving into the large, indoor theatre will bring several different elements to the performance—including more room for lights, nuanced acting and other effects.
"We're still in rehearsal so we're experimenting," Robinson adds. "When you do numerous shows of a play, it's never the same each night. It's always different. It makes it interesting for you—and the audience as well."
While the scope of her character, named Alana, is a surprise for audiences to discover, she provides a lot of the more sombre moments in a play that's packed with comedic elements.
"I can do serious roles, but it's not something I normally do," she says. "When I first read it and was cast as that character, I was looking forward to being the only scene really that didn't have comedy. I knew it would be different and I knew it would be impactful and engaging in a different way."
For Barrett—who also performs in the play as Nate, one of the main characters—watching his production grow from an idea in an article to a script to a full-blown production at Whistler's biggest theatre was "something I've wanted for a long time.""I think people have this idea of what community theatre is," he says. "I'm not trying to say we're Broadway-level talent but we're trying to elevate this a bit above community theatre. It's fun, it's a bit wordy, it's got all these different elements and it changes from comedy to drama to melodrama in quick succession. I hope there's something in there that everyone can gravitate to."
Catch All Relative at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Sept. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. tickets are $15 in advance or $20 day of the show at artswhistler.com/all-relative.