UPEI theatre studies students have mounted plays in a variety of venues.
On campus, they have performed in the Chaplaincy Centre, the Faculty Lounge and the Duffy Amphitheatre.
More recently, they extended their reach into the community, performing in the Province Room of the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, The Guild, the Murphy Community Centre and the chapel at The Mount as well as other locations across P.E.I.
This year the student company, also known as Vagabond Productions, continues with the community trend, mounting its new show, “Fresh Brewed Tales from the Coffee Bar” in an actual café.
This idea has been brewing in the director’s mind for quite a while now.
“I like coffee and I like the idea of performing in a local coffee shop,” says UPEI professor Greg Doran who, after finding the Henry Meyerson-penned series of 11 short plays set in a coffee shop, wanted to filter the idea through the community.
So, he approached Chris Francis at Receiver Coffee in Charlottetown to see if he would be willing to host the troupe.
The café co-owner was instantly “excited” about the project and said, “yes.”
“I’ve known Greg as a customer for quite a while now and we’ve become friends. And I know how passionate he is about his work with Vagabond Productions. So, I thought it was a natural fit,” says Francis.
Besides a natural setting, there were other perks in mounting the show at Receiver Coffee.
“We had never done a site-specific show before. We also wanted to do something more community based. . . I’m always looking for something different for the students, to challenge them and push them a little bit,” Doran says.
For example, instead of the usual stage, students are performing in the raised area at the back of the café, next to the coffee bar.
The makeshift stage was daunting to actor Lydia Banks.
“I wasn’t sure about it, at first. We didn’t actually rehearse in the space until (two weeks ago). But when we did, it was fun.”
While she waited for her scenes, she was invited to be part of the audience, watching as the actors delivered their lines.
“It was a great way to experience the show. I felt like I was eavesdropping on actual conversations that people were having in a coffee shop.”
UPEI student Matt MacPhee agrees.
“Just being in the coffee shop gives the play a different energy. It’s so invigorating.”
For him, the biggest challenge is playing to the audience.
“We have to be definitely conscious that people are watching us from above, not focusing solely on the people watching us on the ground.”
But Doran maintains Receiver Coffee is a perfect place to stage a night of theatre.
“It has great sight lines and acoustics, with balcony seats so people can be up there looking down. It’s a great venue.”
Just the facts
What: “Fresh Brewed Tales from the Coffee Bar”
When and where: Receiver Coffee, 128 Richmond St., Charlottetown, March 5-10
Details: Doors open at 7 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. start
Advisory: Play contains adult language and mature themes
Admission: Admission is pay-what-you can. Contact Vagabond Productions at email@example.com or call 902-566-6013
A playful past
-Vagabond Productions was created in by professor Greg Doran for the students in 2005. It is the UPEI Theatre Studies Program’s Company
- In creating Vagabond, Doran wanted to distinguish the work of the program from the work of the theatre society. Every year, Vagabond puts on at least one show. Auditions for the shows are open, and everyone is welcome
- The mandate of Vagabond Productions is to produce a mix of classic, Canadian and new plays, using a variety of production models