Lucas Myers is coming back to Cranbrook in the new year — and once again, our world will be made smaller.
Myers, the one-man theatre troupe, satire machine and multimedia performance artist is presenting his latest show “Campground” on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Key City Theatre. The following day, Sunday, Jan. 15, he is taking youngsters time-travelling on a trip through the history of literacy in “Captain Future.”
For Myers, who routinely breaks the fourth wall in his plays and encourages audience particupation, it all comes down to the idea of telling a story in as unique a way as possible.
“What I want to do with my shows is make sure they are accessible — experiences that we all go through,” Myers told the Townsman.
Compared to ensemble cast acting, the challenges of a one-man performance are immense. The actor must be full on at all times, able to seize the audience’s attention and maintain it, while (usually) channelling different characters and the world they inhabit, so that all the audience can see themselves reflected in the actor’s adventures.
In this way, by channelling the world via his own particular set of problems, Lucas Myers stands in as a metaphor for all of us.
His recent play, “Deck,” for example, is about home improvement, and the inward journey such projects can take one on.
“I went through a process to fix the deck on my house. And through that process I found out some interesting things about myself. Like I’m a total perfectionist, and I found out I had to let that go in order to accomplish what I needed to accomplish. And that was the lesson in that show — was, ‘that’ll do.’”
Likewise with the current piece “Campground” — a murder-mystery comedy.
“I was camping with my family. We didn’t have spoons, or something, and we had to go next door, to the total rednecks in the camper next door, who were running their generator at seven in the morning, and we were cursing them out, and they ended up being the sweetest people.
“And I realized that a campground is a little community, a little town in and of itself. And you can choose to be a jerk or a good person, or anybody you want. Because you’re never going to see these people again.
“So I was thinking how can I make this idea into an interesting show. What if there are a bunch of people in the campground who are somehow connected. That’s when I came up with the idea of there being a missing person, and maybe they’ve found his camera, and there’s some footage on it that tells a story, and they’re all connected to him. So that was the initial idea. And then there’s the idea of it being a mystery, and there’s a detective who’s trying to find things out came to the fore. That gave me the framework for it.”
As for “Captain Future,” that play is by request of the Golden office of the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, who contacted Myers and contracted him to do a show about literacy. Myers explains:
“The character Captain Future has come back from the future in his time machine, because in the future no one reads anymore — everybody’s minds have been eaten up by social networking app called ‘The Game of Life.’ Captain Future is coming back in time to try to help save everyone’s imagination.
“He does that by asking why we started reading and writing in the first place — and goes to find out in his time machine. So the show basically is a history of reading and writing, from cave painting, through cuniform, etc, and each time he goes back, he becomes a character from that time. And there’s audience participation there, and the time machine doesn’t quite work, and there’s songs throughout.”
By its nature, a one-man show must be fairly tightly scripted, though as a young Myers arrived at his love of theatre through improv.
“When I was a kid I never thought I was going to grow up to be an actor,” he said. But improv — theatre sports — was really big when I was in Junior High School, and I had a great time doing it. There isn’t much of it in [‘Campground’], but in ‘Deck’ there was audience participation, when people got up and built the deck, and I loved that element of the unknown. But it’s pretty scripted. I’ll play off the audience if they react to something. And the detective in ‘Campground’ narrates — there’s no fourth wall. But there are portions where there’s a fourth wall. I’m literally sitting around the fire playing three different characters, having a conversation.”
What does Myers do to set his work apart.
“The funny thing about doing my own shows is I get to do what I want,” he says. “And I like writing music, so I put music in the shows. Music hits you in a different way. It accesses audiences in an emotional way.
“There’s video in this as well. Especially in terms of a murder mystery — the whole premise of those is all the little pieces come together and you have an ‘a ha’ moment. You have seven characters, with all those pieces coming in, so you’ll have flashes of video. And during the show I actually go online, onto Facebook, when he’s interviewing the ‘suspects.’ And we can see him, via a projector.”
Myers moved back to his hometown of Nelson 11 years ago. With he and his wife having two kids, it was time to be a responsible adult, as he says.
“So if I’m going to make this work, I’m really going to have to make this work. I really had to knuckle down, and I created the theatre company, and tried to do a show every couple of years, so I have something fresh to do here. So I started performing in Nelson, then in the Columbia Basin communities, and now I’m touring across B.C.”
With wife, kids, extended family and friends, Myers has a support network that enables him to pursue his art. “So the idea that I do ‘one-man shows’ is really kind of ridiculous. It takes a village, you know what I mean? That’s why I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to get away with it.