Stephanie Henderson spent years as a single woman trying to navigate the dating scene.
For the most part, traditional face-to-face interaction had already morphed into face-to-screen time.
“I have Tinder-swiped, I have blind-dated, I have Events & Adventured and e-Harmonied,” says the Surrey dance teacher. “I mean, theoretically, a bigger pond equals more fish, right?”
It certainly meant more texting, superficial online profiles, occasional profanity, and the realization that the promised ease of connecting with people actually made it harder to do so properly.
“(The screen) was putting more distance between me and the people I was looking to have a relationship with,” Henderson says.
Pondering the experience, with its potential for missed connections and opportunities, Henderson took the idea and went speed dating with it – on stage.
She created the ensemble play called Listen To Me, a presentation of Resounding Scream Theatre, which she co-founded with fellow SFU Contemporary Arts Program grad Catherine Ballachey in 2008.
Henderson describes Listen to Me, which runs the first week of December on Granville Island in Vancouver, as an opportunity to stop hiding behind the digital persona and allow for possibility.
“I wanted to address how unnatural and inauthentic it is to build relationships in this way and take us back to sharing air space instead of screen time.”
In a unique theatrical step, she will take the audience (a maximum of 10 people per show) on an interactive, semi-scripted speed-dating event called “A Social Network.”
The actors and their characters will, within the short time allowed, reveal themselves, their desires and vulnerabilities, and will interact with audience members in as natural a way as possible.
“Our goal as a company at Resounding Scream Theatre is to engage audiences and inspire conversations,” Henderson explains.
That means challenging the audience to participate – to be involved as the “significant other” of the actor across from them.
They’ll be invited to share private parts of their own lives, but only once with each actor, since a bell will ring to send them to the next actor before long.
Each actor will have 10 roles (or relationship “phases”) per night – making for different experiences for repeat audience members.
Eight women and three men were cast for Listen To Me. Ten are “date” actors and one will host the dating event within the play, which Henderson directs.
There will be scripted words, structured improvisation and genuine moments throughout the show, Henderson promises.
Visitors should also expect surprises and broken expectations. A conversation can begin with date-like small talk, but could (and will) suddenly turn on its head, submersed in an existing relationship.
How much an audience member divulges is up to them.
Henderson admits a play like this is not a potential money-maker, but says it’s the kind of thing she and her cohorts went to school for and love to do.
“We don’t put up art that we don’t believe in. If it ends up losing money, at least we know we put our hearts into it.”
And speaking of heart, she met her current boyfriend at a party, not online.
Resounding Scream Theatre’s play, Listen To Me, runs Dec. 2-6 at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at Granville Island’s Agro Café, 1363 Railspur Alley. The limit is 10 audience members per show. Tickets are $20 at listentome.brownpapertickets.com (recommended) or at the door.