Arts & Culture

Out of House and Homage

It’s only ten minutes before Nocturne starts, and Anthony Black is still assembling his set.

It’s only ten minutes before Nocturne starts, and Anthony Black is still assembling his set.
Black, co-artistic director of 2b Theatre, is surrounded by the impressive set of their play, Homage. Based on the life and art of Canadian sculptor Haydn Davies, the set has been reassembled—or is getting there, at least—at Alderney Landing as part of the Nocturne festival.
Black looks up sheepishly from his drill to greet me.
“Can you help me carry some benches?”
After moving the wooden set pieces from a van—his father’s—to the centre of the stage, Black quickly changes coats and sits down on one of them.
He pauses. Takes a deep breath.
“Wow,” he says, his voice filling the space. “This is kind of cool.”
He’s sitting in the middle of a massive installation: four tall wooden structures that form a circle within a square. As the daylight fades, the glow from within the set becomes more perceptible.
His voice and presence command the space as he tells me about Homage and 2b. The actor-director-playwright now looks at home.
“We had originated this piece and premiered it at Alderney Landing [in 2009],” said Black. Designed by Peter Blackie, the set is inspired by Davies’s sculpture of the same name.
Homage originated from a newspaper article that Black read about the destruction of Davies’s seminal work.
“It seemed to be a great metaphor for the impermanent nature of life and the inevitable onslaught of time and our effort to defeat our impermanence,” said Black. “But it’s a futile act. So it seemed like a great poetic terrain for a play.”
Founded and operated by Black and co-artistic director Christian Barry (Barry and Black—2b—Hamlet— existence. Get it?), the company has mounted several acclaimed productions, including a sold-out, extended run of East of Berlin by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch last year at the Bus Stop Theatre.
2b took Homage on tour in Ontario this summer, to the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Kitchener and the Luminato Festival in Toronto. Instead of dismantling the set and selling the pieces, they shipped the ten thousand lineal feet of lumber back to Halifax for Nocturne.
Kim Farmer, art gallery coordinator for Alderney Landing, invited 2b to join Alderney’s Nocturne presentation.
“We’d love to have it here permanently, but it’s just not an outdoor sculpture,” she said. She was glad to promote Haligonian talent.
While the promotion can’t hurt, 2b Theatre is a successful Halifax-based theatre company—no small feat.
Over the past year, 2b has traveled to Regina, Ontario, New York City, Ireland and Scotland, where another production, Invisible Atom, won critical acclaim at Edinburgh Fringe. It’s been a long year on the road for Black, who wrote and performed the one-man show.
“Too long,” said Black, adding that it feels “really good” to be at home with his wife and three-year-old daughter.
Despite their success, he’s made a point of basing the company out of Halifax.
“Halifax is a little bit the path less traveled [in terms of theatre], but yeah, it was important to me to stay here,” said Black. “I grew up here, I like it here. I don’t want to bail on the city just cause it’s smaller than Toronto.”
2b will settle in Halifax for a while, working on new pieces (most of their plays are original), including a newly commissioned piece by Moscovitch.
Even more exciting for the city’s theatre scene, they’re remounting Invisible Atom in December at the Bus Stop Theatre.
“We want to create an environment and be in an environment where artists can make a living, so that is important to us. But,” he adds quickly, “nobody is in this to get rich.”
In January, they will hit the road again, this time traveling to Regina, Chicago, and Australia, bringing their talent to new audiences.
For now, he relishes meeting festival-goers as they file through the Homage set. He is in many ways performing as he welcomes them on to his stage, his figure silhouetted against the dull orange light. For him, the set—and the city—are home.
[Eds. note: This piece is part of our ongoing series on theatre companies in Halifax. Disclosure: Watch Editor-in-Chief Griffin McInnes is 2b Theatre’s student representative.]

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