As I’m sure many of our peers are experiencing, this profound experience of navel-gazing, self-definition, and tempered self-flattery has at times produced epiphanies of “Ah, so that’s who we are!” As Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre writes its first-ever Operating Grant, we’ve never been asked to define our overall Artistic Vision. Though you may not know the various projects that lie at the root of this Vision, we hope that you might recognize who we are somewhere within.
“Re:Union fulfills Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre’s mandate – to produce tough, compelling, thought-provoking theatre.” The Courier (2011)
Over the course of HHG Theatre’s first few years, we began to deprecatingly refer to ourselves as “the company that produces theatre that makes you depressed”. Whether it was alcoholism and death-by-brain-aneurysm in You Are Here, loneliness and abortion in The Darling Family, or suicidal insanity in 4.48 Psychosis, our protagonists were often lost, broken, and suffering. We didn’t want our audience to end up the same. Of course we were proud of our work. We knew that we were introducing a welcome voice and aesthetic to Vancouver’s theatre ecology: uncompromising theatre which exposed the vulnerability and brutality of what it is to be human.
Rather than disengage from where we’d been, we did a self-inspection into what motivated us as theatre artists. While it has often proven challenging for three co-artistic directors to agree, we came to a point of understanding as to what kind of theatre we wanted to create. We want our theatre to “embrace boldness”, which has become our slogan. We want our theatre to make Content just as sacred as Form. We want our theatre to be “never afraid to shine light into darkness”. And so in the more recent years of our practice we’ve noted that while our work still touches upon stories of tragedy, loss, corruption and pain, there is now an equal amount of courage, redemption, idealism and humor. Thematically, we’ve turned a corner from nihilism to activism.
Our work is about promoting societal change, both outside and inside the individual’s experience, at the macro and micro level. We’re drawn to stories which depict the individual in cycles of conflict and resolution, both with herself and society at large. We’re drawn to the overtly political and the intensely personal. We explore the roots of violence, self-doubt, hubris and betrayal, whether they be within the individual or within community. And we do this through a richly collaborative process that supports bold and imaginative conceptual designs, arduously-developed texts, and a welcoming environment that brings out the best of our theatre artists.
Our vision for the next two years is to create and share these brief and startling theatrical moments, in order that we might contribute to the vital ongoing dialogue at the root of society: “What has become of our world? What’s my role in it? What can I do about it?”