A Vista brings the background to the foreground at Massey Theatre

The background is coming to the foreground in a unique performance at Massey Theatre next week.

Fight With a Stick Performance is presenting A Vista, onstage at the Massey from March 20 to 22.

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The performance is based on an ever-changing sequence of painted theatrical backdrops.

The project, which was developed through a two-year exploration process with Fight With a Stick in residence at the Massey, “works towards the limits of age-old theatrical technology, manual labour and hand-painted scenic drops,” a press release says.

The Massey, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, is unique in being one of the few remaining “hemp houses” in Canada. Hemp houses use hemp ropes to fly scenery in and out.

“The fly system and drops are either conventionally opposed to pre-cinematic technology by remaining still or thrust into cinematic sensationalism when a scene change occurs on stage before the audience, a highly choreographed event,” the release says.

A Vista – which takes its name from a technical theatre term meaning to change a scene in front of an audience – draws on an archive of painted backdrops, in large part from the sets of Royal City Musical Theatre’s major productions at Massey over the past 30 years.

During the three-day performance event, a crew of performers and designers – who had to be trained by Massey Theatre crew – will animate about 45 backdrops (15 each night). Each backdrop plays off the next in what the company describes as “a unique visual choreography of canvas, pipe, rope, sound and lights.” Each evening will focus on a different formal element of the painted backdrops: Wednesday is Full Drops, Thursday is Portals, and Friday is Legs.

“The drops are openly handled and revealed in an ever-changing performance, in which no transition or backdrop is given more attention than any other,” the release explains.

The performance will have multiple viewing areas on or near the stage, so seating is informal and people are welcome to change seats at any time. Doors remain open for the duration of the piece (which runs from 7:30 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m.).

“Our process is about understanding the limits of the apparatus, the drops and the crew at the Massey,” director Josh Hite said in the release. “We believe the performance will be of interest to anyone invested in art, performance, animation, pre-cinematic technology, labour, history and the Massey Theatre.”

Intrigued? Check out Fight With a Stick on Facebook (www.facebook.com/fightwithastick) to see a series of videos previewing the performance.

The show runs Wednesday, March 20 to Friday, March 22 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. nightly.

Tickets are $35 regular, $25 for seniors, or $15 for students, with a $60 deal for a three-day show pass.

Tickets are available through www.ticketsnw.ca or 604-521-5050.

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