A new eclectic company

Liquid Meld marks debut season with a diverse lineup

Eclectic (adjective): A theatrical season featuring a Pulitzer-winning drama about sexual abuse a comedy about a subhuman creature grown from a garbage heap a play where three actors portray different characters with the same names 50 years apart and a musical set in a coffee shop.

This may not be the dictionary definition of the term but new theatre company Liquid Meld’s 2010-11 lineup still seems worthy of Webster’s. While the selections are certainly varied artistic director Karmen Rodomar says they aren’t as disparate as they first appear. They were in fact carefully chosen to fit together. All involve personal rather than physical journeys.

“The four shows have an aspect of humanity that’s discussed within them that’s at the core of the piece” she says. “A lot of the theatre we see and a lot of the movies we watch are very plot-based whereas the four shows that we’ve chosen this year are very character-based.”

The first of these is Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive the story of a woman nicknamed L’il Bit (Ellen Sullivan) who was molested as a child by her Uncle Peck (Trevor Leigh). Rodomar acknowledges the play’s subject matter isn’t pleasant but says Liquid Meld decided to debut with it partly for that very reason.

“Child abuse is an issue that people really don’t want to talk about in their living rooms” she says. “The piece itself deals with it in a very honest way. It’s an extraordinarily truthful piece and so for us starting the season off with a show that would really say ‘this is who we are this is what we’re going to do this is what we have to say’ was important and so it was a very natural choice.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by artistic producer Deanna Adam co-founder of the company with Rodomar. After the play on opening night Liquid Meld will turn the stage over to Little Warriors an organization that aims to raise awareness about child sexual abuse for a brief presentation.

“That’s very important to us” says Adam. “Reaching out into the community and making sure that even though we’re here to inspire change that we’re also leading the way.”

The company’s name and its mission both reflect this ethos. “Liquid Meld” was inspired by a charitable commitment (a portion of all ticket sales will go to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation) and a desire to offer Calgarians a more varied experience than they get from other companies.

“People are extraordinarily loyal to the companies they’ll go to” says Rodomar. “For example in Calgary some will go to ATP or they’ll go to Theatre Calgary or they’ll go to SAIT but there isn’t a lot of diversity within their own experience and so what we’re trying to do is really kind of meld that together and give people more of an opportunity to see different types of theatre.”

But is now really the best time for a bold new venture? Rodomar and Adam both say “Yes.” While they were mindful of the challenges a still-recovering economy might pose for the company it didn’t deter them.

“It wasn’t really a factor” says Rodomar. “I don’t want to say the recession didn’t have an impact because of course it did but arts companies are always struggling financially. It’s a part of who we are.”

But Adam for one still has high hopes for the debut season which offers a diverse array that alternates between comedies and dramas and foreign and Canadian plays. While she modestly describes her role with the company as a chance to “get my fingers dirty” she doesn’t hesitate when asked about her goals for attendance.

“I want to sell out!” she says laughing. “I think everybody wants to sell out.” But she adds: “I want to learn more I want to meet people I want to inspire the general public to start loving theatre more.”

Whatever the whims of the public the norms of the stage and the ups and downs of the market one thing seems clear: Liquid Meld is going to define itself.