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Troika Collective

Hive: the New Bees 3 brings Vancouver some in-your-face theatre

By Natasha Wahid
Photos by Jonathan Kim

As a newcomer to Vancouver, it’s been wonderful to see how much this city loves the arts. For instance, the prevalence of the film and television industry is one of this city’s coolest aspects. But as a lover of live performance, I’ve found myself asking on more than one occasion, where’s all the good (affordable) theatre at?

Catherine Ballachey, SFU alum and member of Resounding Scream Theatre happens to have an answer of the best variety: live theatre event Hive: the New Bees 3. Ballachey, along with her partner in crime Stephanie Henderson, has been hard at work over the past few months producing this innovative show. I sat down with Ballachey to chat about all the delightful details.

“You know what’s so funny? I’ve met a few people saying the same thing: ‘I went looking for theatre and couldn’t really find it,’ but we’re here looking for you guys,” says Ballachey.

At its most basic level, Hive: the New Bees 3 is a theatre exhibition featuring original performances by several up-and-coming Vancouver companies. “We recruit everyone in February, then it’s up to them to create as they will. We’ve been having monthly visits to the venue so the companies can come and see their space, and then it’s up to them to create.”

Hive: the New Bees 3 is the sixth production of its kind. The Progress Lab, a group of professional Vancouver theatre companies, produced the first three Hive events. “They were the original 12 companies that did this and then we kind of adopted it from them and did the emerging artist version.” That’s where the “New Bees” part of the title comes into play. “The last of the original Hive installations, they hired a lot of emerging artists to work with them in the hopes of passing it on.”

What distinguishes Hive from other theatre productions — and makes it a truly unique experience for audience members and actors alike —  is the sheer chaos (in the best sense) of the production. Eleven theatre companies will perform original works simultaneously in one building, the Chapel Arts on Dunlevy (a former funeral home).

Ballachey describes the experience: “The audience comes in, they get a map with all the different companies and where they are in the space, and where the bar is, of course — very important. It turns into a party, right? The chaos is what livens it up. It’s the audience’s job to go and find the performances.”

She describes performance styles as coming in three(ish) forms: the short, repeating 10-minute piece; the installation piece that continues throughout the night; and the roving piece that goes in search of its audience. She warns that things can get a little competitive insofar as seeing the piece you want to see, but adds that there are multiple nights of performance as well as incentive deals for repeat patrons.

“More often than not, the competition enlivens the audience because you kind of have to fight for what you want to see. It doesn’t often happen that audience members come for just one piece, they usually come open to everyone.”

“People who come to Hive seek out something unconventional, something a bit different.” Unconventional seems like it might be an understatement, as halfway through our chat, Ballachey divulged a bit of a spoiler alert regarding this year’s Hive: live tattooing! “I won’t say who it is, but you will see an actor get tattooed in front of you.”

“We told each company that their piece would be their introduction to the community, so it should represent the work that they want to do, their identity. I think it reinforces the production as a whole. If each piece is so different from the next, it shows the diversity we have in the growing arts scene so we really encourage them to take risks.”

She’s not kidding about the diversity factor: musical work, movement and dance, improv, cultural themes and audience participation are all likely discoveries at Hive.

Hive is really just a big, in-your-face party for all art-lovers. “As bleak as this is,” says Ballachey, “it’s really hard for us to make a living these days and it often gets very, very competitive in the arts industry. And this kind of puts all of that aside and helps us celebrate each other’s art without worrying about who’s going to get funded.”

Ballachey also has high hopes for attracting people outside the arts community. “We had this beautiful moment last year where these two guys were just walking around in the neighborhood and they saw this commotion. They were compelled to go and see what the commotion was about and realized it was a bunch of young people doing theatre, bought tickets, stayed all night and had a blast. I wish that could happen more, people taking a risk with this sort of thing, you know?”

Hive: the New Bees 3 runs from June 11 to 14 at Chapel Arts. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15 on opening night, $20 on Wednesday and Friday, and by donation on Thursday. For those readers looking to save a little, there is a $10 preview performance on Monday, June 10. For more details, visit hivenewbees.wordpress.com.