Since the 1500s, playwrights have been experimenting with meta-theatre. From Hamlet to Chekov to Six Characters in Search of an Author, theatre has always confronted the idea of theatre itself. Devices like plays within plays, audience interaction and overt personal references turn performance into theory right before the eyes of the audience. It is disorienting to be sure, but it's also incredibly intriguing.
And intrigue seems to be the name of Johnelle Sciocchetti's game. Her second Fringe Fest play, Sciocchetti had the idea for Backstage for years but didn't begin writing until she was truly inspired.
"After Fringe 2012, I was a bit disillusioned with Halifax theatre people, so I began to write about them. The characters are all concepts, based on personally experienced stereotypes," she says. Backstage centres around the action of actors waiting for cues during a Fringe play. Hilarity ensues.
"The second draft was written shortly after I had a theatrical experience where the director quit a week before a show opened. It ended up being the perfect thread to tie my own show together."
Presented by Wildfire Theatre Society, a recently registered non-profit, Sciocchetti hopes the audience approaches Backstage with a sense of humour. Riffing on Carly Simon, she added the subtitle, "You're so vain, you probably think this play is about you" to invite associations to the characters.
"I looked for actors who had a lot of personality and energy, and I was looking for people who weren't afraid of what others thought of them," she says. "The play holds a mirror up to the Halifax theatre scene and some of the people in it. There is bound to be some reaction to that, positive or negative."
But those meta-moments are exactly what she wants. Will you see your reflection?