Dennis Hanagan –
A Parkdale theatre and media company has produced an audio documentary about the lives of street people who hang out at Queen and Bathurst streets and those who work in the shops there.
“It’s quite a diverse intersection,” says Lisa Marie DiLiberto, artistic director of Fixt Point that spent much of 2012 researching then recording the documentary.
“It’s been one of those places that’s had people come, and people gather, and people move,” says DiLiberto who made the production along with Fixt Point’s Managing Director Charles Ketchabaw.
The public can borrow headphones at Theatre Passe Muraille’s box office on Ryerson Avenue, just one block from the intersection, to take the free, self-guided 54-minute tour that explains the intersection’s history, architecture, and the “regulars’ who make it a second home.
Aptly, the production is called The Four Corners. It explains that at one time people north of Queen were considered a better class than those to the south. There’s also a history of Africans and Irish in the area. Local councilor Adam Vaughan helped DiLberto and Ketchabaw understand the four corner’s history.
The documentary was recorded binaurally Sept. 29 with four live audiences, each with a tour guide. Nine actors were added to play the roles of street people and workers. Their lines were based on interviews DiLiberto and Ketchabaw made with real street people and workers earlier this year.
The actors were so convincing that when they interrupted the tours, audience members weren’t sure what was happening. “People weren’t sure whether those people were actors or just part of the environment,” says DiLberto.
“I remember some audience people saying ‘shhhh’ we’re in the middle of a show.”
The documentary was birthed by Theatre Passe Muraille (TPM) after the Metcalf Foundation supported the theatre for a season of programming that ventured outside its four walls. That’s what passe muraille means — beyond the walls.
TPM Artistic Director Andy McKim approached Liberto and Ketchabaw to have them make the documentary. The duo has done other similar site-specific productions, one called Tale of the Town about Queen West.
With a grant from the Ontario Arts Council Ketchabaw used a special recording technique that lets headphone users hear street sounds all around them.
“When you take the tour … you’ll hear it exactly as it was recorded coming into both ears. You can hear a streetcar coming from your right hand side, you can hear behind you a barking dog, beside you a baby,” explains DiLiberto.
Business associations have invited Fixt Point to produce audio documentaries of their communities. “Quite often they’re the people who bring us into a neighbourhood. They’re interested in celebrating their local strips.”
Fixt Point wants to make documentaries about other downtown communities. Currently, the company is working on a production called The Tale of Harbourfront to mark its 40th anniversdary.