Theatre may be one of the world’s oldest art forms, but it’s getting an exciting refresh thanks to a new wave of young creators like Hamilton’s own Pantheon Projects. The queer and feminist-focused performance collective, founded by award-winning playwright Camille Intson, has earned the first annual Greenhouse residency with Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, a collaboration that is helping bring Intson’s latest innovative piece to life.
“The Greenhouse residency is a rare gem in the Ontarian theatre ecology,” says Intson. “With its focus on inter and trans-disciplinary theatre creation processes, it’s given us a unique space to play and experiment in a way that isn’t usually supported in more traditional residencies. This time, development space, and professional support is invaluable.”
Pantheon Projects is hard at work shaping Intson’s JANE, an innovative speculative fiction drama exploring themes of consent and technology in a not-too-distant future of pornography deepfakes. These themes are not your grandmother’s play fodder; they’re written by and for a new generation of audiences.
“JANE is a play created for new generation theatre audiences at a time when the question of how to appeal to younger generations of theatre-goers is so pressing,” says Intson. “My collaborators and I were all born in the late 90s and grew up with social media in its infancy…We were the generation actively shaped by these technologies; we learned to use them, communicate through them, and even to find and express love through them. And at the end of the day, we aspire to make theatre for audiences like us using visual and textual languages they understand.”
Through their Tarragon Theatre residency, the collective is taking risks not only in the play’s subject matter but in its staging.
“…Our goal with the residency is to create and develop a projections-heavy immersive stage-world to capitalize on the leeway between the blurring of virtual and physical worlds in this show,” says Intson. “Instead of projecting directly onto a screen, as is conventional, we intend to design our projections as sculptural; by using light and projection on human bodies and other physical forms – that is to say, things with their own depth and texture already – we hope to explore the blurred lines between virtual and physical, past and present, and the different characters ’memories and experiences.”
Intson is no stranger to bold, original works, nor what it takes to make these plays a success. Her 2019 piece, We All Got Lost, billed as a “queer gothic coming-of-age play,” took home numerous awards including the Hamilton Fringe Festival’s New Play Contest, Best of Fringe, and the Robert Beardsley Award for Young Playwrights 2021. Perhaps one of Intson’s less-noted abilities lies in how she puts her creative teams together, selecting talent that compliments her vision.
“…Earlier this year I connected with two emerging female artists that I really wanted to work with: director Bryn Kennedy (currently Assistant Directing ‘Hamlet’ at Stratford) and projections designer Nicole Eun-Ju Bell, who has worked on so many fascinating projections and VR-based projects around the GTA,” says Intson. “As a collective, Pantheon Projects has functioned on more of an indie scale with the assistance of grants for individual projects; although all of our core members are working professionally in theatre, media, and film, this is the first major residency for the collective [at] large.”
Excerpts of JANE will be shown to the public alongside other residents’ work during the Greenhouse Festival in January 2023. Says Intson, “It will be fun to present things ‘in process’, to receive feedback on how our intermedial methods of storytelling are being received. I think that will be very telling and formative for future re-writes and iterations of the work.”