Changing faces – transforming identities through Detour Theatre

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For many of us, public speaking is a sure-fire way to set the blood pressure rising, and, to my mind, acting would have a similar effect. Well, introverts amongst us, take note! You too can don a costume and tread the boards up in front of a live audience. You don’t have to be an extroverted livewire at all.

In fact, says Detour Theatre’s Kim Williamson, introverts sometimes make the best actors because they are so attuned to their character, and disciplined.

“For them it’s all about the character, not the audience, and the stage is like a safety net; it has boundaries,” she says. “So when they’re on stage playing a character, they can be as wild as they like because they’re within those boundaries.”

In August 2017 introverts and extroverts alike got the chance to learn the basics of acting in a one-day workshop for adult beginners. Kim runs the workshop twice a year, depending on demand, and welcomes women and men of all ages who have always wanted to give it a try.

Workshops teach the foundations of theatre, such as stagecraft, working with character, voice projection and learning how to move on stage. It gets people started, she says, but there’s no better training than being up in front of a real audience.

“Some people just want to have a go which is great and we really encourage that. But lots of our participants go on to appear in our shows and that’s when we see their acting skills take off. You learn so much more while you’re performing.”

With four productions staged each year at Detour, there are plenty of opportunities to practise those developing skills. Kim and her husband Devon established Detour Theatre Company in 1996, initially as a touring company, which then evolved into a community theatre and drama academy. In 2007 they moved into their current site at the Historic Village in 17th Avenue where work began to transform the former church building into the intimate 70-seat theatre it is today.

Kim is a professionally trained actor and accomplished playwright and director. She is a past president of the 16th Avenue Theatre and since 2000 has directed over 25 shows for Detour, six of which she has written herself. She directs two Detour plays each year and when she’s not at the helm she’s regularly part of the cast, taking on a range of guises, and often with pink hair! Through their drama academy Kim and Devon also run several weekly classes for teens and younger children, as well as adults with special needs.

Kim Williamson playing Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, alongside Matthew Roderick as Oberon

 

Extending ourselves

“What we love most of all is being really involved with the community, and taking people from one place to another – to extend them in some way. In the classes, people are scared at first but soon realise so much more about themselves and what they can do.

“In our shows we like to make our audience laugh and think, and feel they’ve had two hours of pure escapism. It’s great to watch people get so involved they’re leaning forward on their seat and really feeling a part of it all.”

And that’s no understatement, as the cosy theatre gets the audience up so close to the stage some people may find themselves thinking they’re part of the cast. One gentleman who had never been to the theatre before told Kim it was ‘just like TV, but live!’

Kim is heartened to see more people experiment with live theatre, especially the younger crowd who are seeking out different genres as they get a taste of the array of performing arts staged in the region.

“The more live theatre we have in the Bay the more people are aware of what else is going on,” says Kim. “It brings a real vibrancy to a community and I think it’s only going to grow. More fringe theatre would be especially good to see.”

From Shakespeare to contemporary drama to comedies, Detour aims to cater for all tastes. As well as being good for a laugh, comedies in particular can be a great way to deal with issues around relationships and understanding different personalities, she says.

They can also help people confront slightly more delicate subjects in a positive way. Exit Laughing tells the story of a group of older women who play a weekly game of Bridge. When one of the old girls dies, her friend pilfers the urn of ashes from the funeral home for a final card game and a crazy night of adventures – it transpires that Mary, who died, has set up a series of pranks to play on her friends. Who will get the last laugh?