I wrote a play. What’s more, it actually got produced! It’s called The Objecthood of Chairs, and it’s about the romance between two men, as told trough Western culture’s historical romance with chairs. The impetus for the piece came from many places: my longstanding fascination with both the functionality and the beauty of chairs as objects of design; years spent perfecting the fine art of sedentary sitting; and, above all, my desire, as someone who regularly teaches dramatic literature and theories of performance, to try my hand at actually writing for the theatre.

Old academic habits die hard; the very first thing I did was plunge into research. The result is a work that mixes the lecture mode with other forms of dramatic address to explore how a piece of furniture usually meant to accommodate one person might serve as a metaphor for the accommodations we routinely make—sometimes willingly, sometimes not—in a relationship. We thus follow our two men as they meet, move in together, and eventually part as the result of a freak accident. Along the way, and in a largely presentational style, we are provided various “object” lessons in: modernist chair design; Shaker asceticism; the revolution in sociability and sexuality inaugurated by the Thonet café chair; the inherent cruelty of childhood games of musical chairs; and Buddhist sitting practices. The text draws on architectural theory and art history, industrial design and neurophysiology, poetry and pop culture to think through the relationships and resistances between bodies (and objects) as they move through space, and to reflect on the necessary loss of autonomy that comes with asking for, and offering, unconditional support.

Click on the thumbnails to the left for some larger images from the production. All photographs courtesy James Proudfoot. Below is video documentation (courtesy of Jocelyne Chaput) of one of the performances:

From the beginning, The Objecthood of Chairs was conceived as multi-disciplinary, a collaborative experiment in blurring the boundaries and mining the connections between text, movement, video, music, dramaturgy, and design. For that, I knew I needed the help of colleagues in SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts. Over close to a year of discussion, workshops, experimentation, and rehearsal, faculty, current and former students, friends, and associates all brought their collective talents to bear on my script, helping to shape it into a performance. This included original choreography by Rob Kitsos, video projections by Rob Groeneboer, music by Martin Gotfrit, lighting by James Proudfoot, costumes by Florence Barrett, and direction and dramaturgy by DD Kugler, to whom I am forever beholden for first seeing the performance potential of my script.

A dedicated, enthusiastic, and amazingly talented group of SCA students and alumni also assisted with stage management, film production, video editing, effects, and coordination, lighting, research, publicity, and documentation.

Finally, our amazingly talented performers were Victor Mariano and Justin Reist, graduates from SCA’s Theatre and Dance programs, respectively, who immersed themselves in each other’s discipline specifically for this piece, and whose commitment to the long haul of its creation and realization was simply extraordinary.

The whole process was one of the most intellectually and creatively rewarding of my life. I thought I knew what interdisciplinary collaboration meant before starting this project. These folks taught me I hadn’t a clue. I’m immensely grateful for their tutelage, and for the opportunity to be a part, however small, of SCA’s move into their spectacular new Woodward’s digs (replete with an abundance of funky chairs). Indeed, I will forever cherish the fact that The Objecthood of Chairs was the inaugural production in SFU Woodward’s Studio T, an intimate black box space that we were thrilled to be testing out.