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Director's StatemenT
- by Simon C. Hussey
DEAD. DONE. DOCUMENTED.

Told through interviews with its fans, founders and former cast and crew, this feature length documentary aims to pull back the curtain on how one group of maverick theatre artists found a family of kindred spirits; equally unrelenting in their Quixotic quest to create "theatre for people that don't like theatre". Defying expectations of their local theatre community and eschewed by critics, Spectral managed to achieve success of a kind that is as ephemeral as the theatre experience itself. While on one level it is a personal story about friendships, family, and the cost of remaining committed to one's art, on another level it's a story that addresses what's at risk when innovators and artists on the fringe are not given the same opportunities as mainstream organizations and the ultimate impact that has on the diversity of artistic expression.

The decision to direct the documentary about Spectral Theatre Society came almost immediately after the decision to dissolve Spectral Theatre Society when Co-Executive Producer and Cinematographer, Gerald Varga, and I were going over some of the company’s archival footage. Many of the images we saw were of moments that we had utterly forgotten or were unaware of to begin with, but such is the nature of the live theatrical experience, ephemeral - experienced as one experiences a vivid dream, “it was amazing, but I can’t remember the details”. As the tapes played, we watched, as if for the first time, a parade of colourful characters; 10-foot cardboard robots, were-squirrels, weird tentacled Lovecraftian beasts, anal-probing aliens that acted and sounded like Robert Goulet, ghoulish librarians, Fez wearing magicians, and a haunted wheelchair possessed by the spirit of a dead SS soldier. Utter madness. But the crazed joy on the faces of the performers was obvious; these were folks in their element and their audiences were being treated to something incredibly unique, unbridled creativity. This was not theatre; this was theatre for people that didn’t like theatre. When the tapes were finished playing, we came to the crystalline conclusion, whatever this was…it needs to be remembered.

 

Much like its spiritual predecessor, Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol of Paris at the turn of the 20th century, Spectral Theatre Society occupied a special place in time and space - a time when the DIY/punk ethic that was prevalent in Vancouver in the 80’s and 90’s was dissolving in the acid filled pit of social media, rising real estate prices, and shifting tastes. Spectral was arguably the last time a rag tag collective of artisans in Vancouver could afford their own space and survive on their box office and volunteerism alone, providing the members of the local arts community at the time a rare opportunity to explore, experiment, fail, and grow. It’s my hope that this documentary not only serves as a record of this unique entity but may also one day inspire other like-minded theatre artists {any artists}, wherever they may be in this world, to ask themselves, “if they did it, why can’t we?”.

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