"Trophy" at Toronto's Nuit Blanche.

Trophy at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.

For many, the prospect of sharing intimate stories of their life with complete strangers could be daunting — listening to these strangers tell their very personal stories may also fill you with apprehension. Facing this discomfort is the premise of STO Union’s Trophy, playing at the annual In the Soil Arts Festival in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Sarah (Bradford, fellow DARTcritic Staff Writer) and I signed up for tonight’s 8pm showing of Trophy which is advertised as part-performance, part-art installation. Taking place in The Hub on James St, the atmosphere was busy and quite noisy by early evening with live music taking place only a few yards away. Trophy’s “set” consists of five small white tents with a gong in the middle of them. We were instructed to stand around a square with eight other participants and, after a short introduction, were directed into one of the tents. In four of these little structures we encountered a person who shared with us a story of a moment in their life that changed them in some way. In the final tent, we put on headphones and listened to another such story. Each had a specific theme such as loss, indecision, revelation, or the fear of being alone. We were then invited to think of a similar moment in our own life, write it down on a piece of gel paper, and tape it to one of the sides of the tent.

Each section (story + personal reflection + move to the next location) is timed, with the sounding of the gong indicating it is time to switch. Although I understand the need to keep to a time limit, this did feel slightly mechanical — so much so that the performers would sit slightly awkwardly, explaining that they couldn’t start the next section until the gong rang. Some read through their scripts quite quickly, clearly concerned about running over time which, when it happened, did take away further from the experience. The contrast between the intimacy of the stories being told, and the chaos and noise outside was also distracting. I appreciated the stories — some of them were quite touching — and enjoyed the invitation to reflect, but it was difficult to think about important moments from my life in a mere 80 seconds.

I really loved the concept of Trophy: technology has become so prominent in our society that face to face interaction, albeit with strangers, is a welcome change. For those who aren’t naturally extroverted, it encourages a step outside your comfort zone and I think with a quieter location and a looser time limit it has the potential to be a very powerful performance.

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