Katie Swift frowns slightly as she tries to sum up the plot of the new play A Rescue Demonstration. "Basically, it's the story of two people, an EMT named Edward and a nurse named Mary, who meet at the scene of a tragedy. They're both at the cusp of a crisis." She pauses. "But it's hard to explain any more than that without giving away too much."
Her fellow actor and co-playwright Stewart Legere nods his head. "Part of the world of the play is about coming to an understanding together with the people in the room and..."
The play's director, Ann-Marie Kerr, finishes his sentence: "...and gradually answering questions over the course of the play." She laughs slightly. "Even though mysterious things can sound a little abstract, there are a lot of compelling hooks in this play. Things like getting to see this couple trying to make a choice for life, despite the darkness in the world. It's just not your typical love story."
Swift and Legere first met as theatre students at Dalhousie, where Kerr happened to be one of their teachers. After graduation, Smith went away to the National Theatre School and Legere began working with the Irondale Ensemble and Zuppa Theatre. In the summer of 2008, Swift and Legere were cast in Two Planks and a Passion's production of Our Town at Ross Creek, where they started kicking around the idea of creating a play. After myriad phone calls, months of research and weeks of "playing together," A Rescue Demonstration was born.
Both Swift and Legere describe Kerr as their "ideal candidate" to direct the work.
"It's like everything just aligned perfectly for this collaboration," says Swift. "We wanted to work with Ann-Marie because she's such a brilliant physical-theatre director. There was no hesitation on her part, she just came on as director, co-creator and outside eye."
Kerr beams. "Because we came from the hierarchy of teacher and student, you might think it would be hard to work together. But it isn't. It's lovely to be working together as equals."
The creation of Plutonium Playhouse, Thom Fitzgerald's newly opened theatre space, also proved to be serendipitous for this production. "Plutonium Playhouse is the perfect place to do A Rescue Demonstration," says Legere. "Its mandate is to give local playwrights a place to unveil brand-new work. It's been a very nurturing experience, and it's been really helpful that we've been able to rehearse there for much longer than we would have in another spot."
"We've found there are a lot of people who want to support the new venue and to support theatre that's being built from the ground floor up," adds Kerr.
The conversation returns to describing the play for the potential audience. Words like "highly physical," "hilarious" and "magic realism" are bantered back and forth. Legere takes a stab at summing it up. "Things happen in this play that can only happen in theatre. It's a combination of physical style with laser-sharp realism. We spent a lot of time saying, 'Can we do this?' and 'Are we allowed to do this?' and the answer was yes."
Swift is still frowning, struggling to make the appeal of the play more clear. Finally, a smile spreads across her face. She knows what will make A Rescue Demonstration stand out: "I think you can say that it's a story that's a combination of complete truthfulness and utter magic."