From solo to full cast

TJ Dawe and Itai Erdal during a recent workshop.| Photo by Jordan Jenkins.

There’s a lot of love on the internet. Or is there? As technology keeps us increasingly connected, we are progressively becoming more disconnected.

That’s one of the many questions that the play Hyperlink sets out to answer from Oct. 4–14 at the Firehall Arts Centre. Is it real love or is it internet love, and what is the difference? Are we forging true human connections online, or simply the simulations of connections?

Hyperlink was conceived out of a collaboration between award-winning writer, performer,
and director TJ Dawe, and award-winning lighting designer Itai Erdal.

“He saw me do one of my solo shows at the Firehall called Medicine,” Dawe recalls. “There was a Q & A afterwards and he stayed for that. He couldn’t help noticing how different he and I are as people.”

While Erdal was born and raised in Jerusalem and hosts dinner parties every week, Dawe was born and raised in Vancouver and prefers to stay at home and read.

“[Medicine] just blew me away and I thought, I want to work with this guy,” Erdal adds.

It dawned on them in conversation that the internet is a part of everybody’s life these days, but it is generally not talked about on stage. Four years later, the result of that chat is a collage of different moments, monologues, stories and scenes relating to the internet; how it is changing the way people interact, and the growing gulf between our real and online identities.

Underlying humour

Dawe made a name for himself as a monologist writing and performing 16 one-person shows. He also co-created approximately 16 more.

An introverted child, Dawe preferred playing in his room and making up stories. Writing was not his ambition growing up, although he kept journals and loved English assignments in school. He also enjoyed the humour of magazines like Mad.

To this day, even his darker and more somber-toned autobiographical works are laced with humour.

“Growing up I loved reading Mad magazine. I loved the way that was their ethos; that anything can be questioned, anything can be made fun of,” Dawe says. “And just how alive it makes you feel to be caught up in a big belly laugh. It’s a healing thing, I think it’s something we all need. I think [with] belly laughs and orgasms on a regular basis we would all be a much happier world.”

The creative team.| Photo courtesy of Itai Erdal.

Creating solo work

“I really venerated [solo shows] for having that strength to be the one person on stage, and that they were able to change anything in time because there was nobody else that would be f–ing up,” says Dawe. “You’re not denying somebody a cue line if you had a little line and you messed up, it’s just yourself, and you wrote the script so there’s no writer that’s gonna be slapping you on the wrist. I was really drawn to that. I loved the freedom that it offered.”

With a project like Hyperlink that boasts an ensemble cast, different skill sets coalesce and complement each other in the interest of making the show better. The show is produced by the Elbow Theatre, a Vancouver-based theatre company started by Erdal in 2012.

A unique feature of the show will be a 45-second “instamission.”

“[Instamission is] an intermission that’s specifically designed to get people on Instagram,” says Dawe. The audience will get relief for not having been allowed to look at their phones and can post pictures on Instagram or check texts.

“We’re really hoping that the play draws an audience that doesn’t normally come to theatre because a lot of people don’t necessarily think that theatre is relevant to them,” says Dawe.

Dawe welcomes feedback from his audience, acknowledging that despite creating a play about the internet, there is much more to the online world than what is depicted in Hyperlink.

“We’ve all had a lot of experience with living online and I’m perfectly fine if somebody comes up to us after the show and says, ‘How can you not have talked about _?’ We want people to think about their own experiences and their [own] relationships to the world online – the differences between how they present themselves and who they are online.”


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