Verb Theatre’s Easter Island weaves stories together to create something magically ethereal

Three very different stories taking place at various times in the future, woven together in an intimate setting with a backdrop of visually mesmerizing projections – that’s Easter Island, and it’s Verb Theatre’s latest production currently running at Arts Commons’ Motel.

This world premiere was brought to Verb Theatre initially as an idea by playwright David van Belle, and, according to Easter Island’s director, Jamie Dunsdon, that idea fit what they had been looking for. “(Verb) were looking for a project that hadn’t been picked yet, a project to support, and David came to us with just the seed of an idea that eventually became Easter Island … When he came to us with this idea I thought, ‘You know what? That sounds really weird and cool – I’m in.’ ”

The show is comprised of three stories, told and framed around a central storyteller: “The audience enters into this world of this futuristic tattoo artist who is going to pick your tattoo for you,” explains Dunsdon, “and the way he determines what tattoo you need is by telling you three stories, these three sort of parables.”

Each story is tied to the other through place and through each of the character’s internal struggles. “All three stories actually happen on the exact same piece of land, and they happen at different pieces of time, but all three of the stories explore human capacity for change,” says Dunsdon.

Aside from the tattoo artist, the stories also include a landscape artist and an oil and gas prospector. “The landscape artist is someone who changes the earth by nature of her job, but she, in the process, changes the face of human kind and she has to confront her guilt in that. The oil and gas prospector has more of a personal storyline where she has to confront a change that’s coming in her life whether she wants it or not, and then the tattooist believes that by getting your tattoo you WILL change because he puts your fear on your skin for you and you have to confront it.”

It’s a strange, futuristic look at society that Dunsdon is excited about. “It’s all super weird,” she says. “The way David  has written it is really intelligent I would say – it’s very complex, though. These stories sort of weave in and out and it’s sort of magical and ethereal at times, so we do ask a lot of our audience, they need to come prepared to go through an experience.”

Taking the audience on this experience is actor Natalie Gauthier, who guides you through this one-woman show. Working with just one actor, Dunsdon explains, can sometimes be more difficult from a director’s view than one might think. “When there’s only one person you sort of have to find other relationships: relationships to the people in the audience, relationships to voices in your head, relationships to images in your mind, so it’s actually a lot harder to do a one-woman show I think, in some ways, because you have to work internally. Everything has to be motivated internally and that’s the hardest part for the actor as well, (Natalie) has to motivate all of her lines internally because there is no prompting, so she has to motivate every single line from within, and that’s hard. And she does a great job!”

Part of the experience also lies in the intimate setting of Motel Theatre, which Dunsdon admits has its advantages. “It’s a very intimate experience, but the good thing about being a small space is that you can transform it, and that’s fun. So the audience will enter into a bit more of an immersive experience. We’ve really transformed Motel … we bring the audience into a falling-apart, sort of earth-scape hovel and there’s a sort of landmass in the centre of it with mines hanging everywhere, and on the landmass you have projected universes, so there’s some beautiful projections created by Erin Gruber that are just mesmerising, they’re really beautiful.”

(Photo courtesy Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media.)

Easter Island runs until March 31 at Motel Theatre in Arts Commons. Tickets and info available at

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Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at