What is Utopia?

Hello Fringe-goers! Fredericton’s Theatre Free Radical is bringing our new work, Utopia, to the Vancouver Fringe, where it will make its world premiere. Utopia is the story of a down on her luck Maritime Christmas tree farmer who has an Eden-like, resource-rich planet appear in her backyard one night, and the pressures and ethical dilemmas she and her family face as they try to decide what best to do with it. More than that, it is also a an emotionally powerful dark fairy tale/allegory about the joys, perils and responsibilities of parenthood. If you are a fan of thought-provoking, complexly layered and plotted multi-character dramas with a hint of mystery and the surreal at their core, you will love Utopia.

Elsewhere on this site you’ll find more information on the play, including show times and location (on the About Utopia page), and on our company and our previous productions (Company History and Reviews). You’ll also find some photos to give you a taste of the play.

One of the things the Fringe advises companies to do is write up some possible story angles/pitches on your play to pique the interest of folks from the media. Once I did this I thought, hey, why not share this on our blog as it’s a good way for prospective audience members to get more of a sense of what our show is about.

 Here then are some…

 Utopia Story Angles

Here are a few tidbits about Theatre Free Radical’s new play Utopia that could be spun into some pretty interesting stories, some serious, some more whimsical.

 Environmentalism, Fracking, the Oil Sands and the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Utopia was inspired by environmental issues that have been much in the news of late. One is the issue of natural gas “fracking,” a hugely controversial topic right now in our company’s home province of New Brunswick (and we gather B.C. also). In NB, the debate is pitting environmentalists who fear fracking will destroy the province’s pristine rural areas against pro-development forces who see it as our collective ticket out of dependency and economic stagnation, and into prosperity. Another is the national debate about Alberta’s oil sands, which needs no explanation. Perhaps closer to home for those in B.C. is the Harper government’s proposal to build the Northern Gateway pipeline. While the play is not literally “about” fracking, the oil sands, or the pipeline, as a play about a woman who has a resource-rich planet appear in her backyard one night, Utopia is a fable or allegory that has these issues as a subtext, along with our era’s ongoing anxieties over climate change and the path toward potential environmental apocalypse that we seem to be treading. How to care for our planet (or any planet, for that matter) sustainably while still taking what we need from it is a question that hovers over the play.

Maritime Migration to the West … as exemplified by one of the members of our company

As alluded to in the previous point, Utopia depicts a scenario where it seems possible that the Maritimes will become Canada’s new “have” region, reversing the current situation, which has seen ongoing outmigration from the economically struggling Maritimes to the booming West. For a pair of characters in the play, pulling up stakes to move West to find work is a fate that they are trying to avoid, but seems inevitable. As exemplified by our company… We find ourselves increasingly at home in Vancouver, as each time we visit there are more and more transplanted Frederictonians now living there, for lack of opportunity at home. And on this Fringe trip, our stage manager has (sadly) bought a one-way ticket and won’t be returning home with us. Instead, as a result of a lack of job opportunities at home, he is using the trip as a springboard to move west to start a new life in Vancouver, where he hopes to find work.

 A Company Member Appearing in Fringes on the East and West Coasts … simultaneously!

Theatre Free Radical company member Jake Martin plays Zach in Utopia, which has its first performance at the Vancouver Fringe on September 6. The very same night, a play Martin co-wrote will make its debut at the Atlantic Fringe Festival in Halifax.

 A Plethora of Planetary Visitations, Coinciding With the Fringe’s Outer Space Theme

When we applied to perform Utopia in Vancouver, little did we know the Fringe theme this year would be Outer Space. How perfect is that? And we’re guessing our show takes that theme further than perhaps any other in the festival. Furthermore, the play comes on the heels of a pair of Earth-visited-by-another-planet-themed films: Lars von Trier’s Melancholia and the less well known Another World. Clearly, we are riding the crest of a wave. Or at least let’s call it a mini-trend. Whatever we call it, there’s probably a story in why all these tales of interplanetary visitation right now?

Theatre Free Radical Loves the Vancouver Fringe

Finally, there’s got to be a story in why a small theatre company from Fredericton, NB keeps spending thousands of dollars just to go to the Vancouver Fringe—not do the circuit in between, just come to Vancouver. Clearly, we are crazy—or we love Vancouver—one of the two.



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