Chaos likely for MTC Warehouse Theatre on Sunday as actors perform 2 plays at the same time

Fourteen actors will do double duty as they perform two plays at the same time in two different rooms in Winnipeg with all actors appearing in both plays.

Shows aim raise money for performing arts lodge for Winnipeg's arts community

The plays, House and Garden, are both written by Alan Ayckbourn and are part of Winnipeg's Ayckbourn Fest, which runs until Feb. 21. (

Fourteen actors will do double duty as they perform two plays at the same time in two different rooms in Winnipeg with all actors appearing in both plays.

The special stage reading of Alan Ayckbourn's House and Garden — which is two plays —  is scheduled for Sunday, and the purpose of the shows is to raise money for a performing arts lodge for people in Winnipeg's arts community.

Megan McArton, the director of both plays, says the performers will be on all the time. 

"When you exit one play, you are essentially entering another," she said, referring to the actors' perspectives.

"The audience stays put but the actors move back and forth between those two locations and it's in real time so it basically tells the same story.  But the off-stage action of one play is the action of another."

House is going to be staged in the MTC Warehouse Theatre, and Garden will show in the venue's lobby. 

"[The audience] can either sit in the nice, comfy theatre seats and watch House or they can choose the more intimate setting of the lobby and sit in chairs but have a closer experience," McArton said.

"Garden will only seat probably about 40 people but the warehouse theatre seats a huge number. There's benefits to each play."

Harry Nelken is in both shows.

"I play the part of Warn," he said. 

"[I am] the gardener of the people who are putting on their annual summer fête … and I am reluctantly participating and getting the thing ready, I really don't want to. In my own way, I'll try and [sabotage it]."

Both Nelken and McArton say the play was written to facilitate the experience they are trying to create.

"When Ayckbourn wrote these, he wrote them to be performed together. He left 90 seconds between each entrance and exit," McArton said.

"Whether it all works out, well, if it doesn't we're going to hand out chocolate hearts or something if we have to stall."

Typically, plays are rehearsed for weeks or months before show time, but the Canadian Actors' Equity Association, which represents the actors in the plays, is permitting a significantly shorter time to prepare.

"Equity, our association, gives us permission to do this for free. The actors are doing it for free because it's a benefit but they limit the amount that we can work them and that's four hours," McArton said.

Nelken said inherent in the time constraint is the actors' biggest challenge: "To take the directions from the director well so that we're in the right theatre at the right time."

Two different coloured scripts and what McArton calls a "fantastic" cast are some of the ways the actors and crew are making it work.

House and Garden starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the MTC Warehouse Theatre and admission is a $15 cash donation at the door.


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