Theatre Preview: A monstrous future

By Janice Tran

Ten years ago, Ryan Gladstone was a fine arts student here at the University of Calgary studying drama. Fast-forward to the present and Gladstone is a well-established writer, performer, and director. In addition to these titles, Ryan, along with partner Bruce Horak, founded the drama group Monster Theatre, allowing them both to write and act in all their productions. The two took their name from one of more endearing characteristics of monsters.

“Monsters like Frankenstein are twisted and bizarre on the outside, yet tender and loving on the inside,” explains Gladstone, drawing a parallel to his theatre group’s skill at entertaining audiences using bizarre, comical dramatic techniques, while at the same time addressing serious issues. Their most recent production is particularly ambitious.

“We’ve been writing a whole series of plays that are about history,” expresses Gladstone, describing their latest play, History of the Future. “[It’s about] the history of mankind’s perception of the future.”

In History, Gladstone and Horak along with Gladstone’s brother Jeff, play themselves as scientists who build a time machine and journey through time and space in search of answers to humanity’s most pondered questions. The play explores what the future could be like through the views of science, science fiction and religion. From Nostradamus to aliens from outer space, the trio address deep philosophical questions like “what is at the end of it all?” and reveal the answers through puppetry, singing and other creative dramatic techniques.

“We came up with the idea with Michael Green from One Yellow Rabbit to do a history of the future and it sort of spawned from there,” Gladstone comments. “This idea itself is about two years old and it takes that long for it to germinate. We needed to find a venue for it and get the personnel together. We have directors from New Mexico to designers from Toronto. Some of us are living in Vancouver and some of us are living in Toronto.”

In addition to co-ordinating the production team, the writers also devoted their time to research. After all, writing a story heavily based on facts requires large amounts of studying.

“We put a lot of thought into it and didn’t just try to think of funny stuff,” Gladstone explains. “We hope to bring up some issues that [the audience] hasn’t thought of before. We live right now on the threshold of the most fascinating period in the history of the world. The internet has increased the access to information and the newest one that is coming is the mapping of the genome, which is going to change everything.”

History of the Future promises an exciting, prophetic and often scientific adventure that is anything but ordinary. We can’t tell what the future holds but Gladstone and the rest of Monster Theatre are eager to show you their predictions. Who knows, you may even experience the apocalypse and return to tell about it.


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