Out of This Blue: Pandemic inspired Ivan Coyote collaboration

ON STAGE

What: Out of This Blue
Where: intrepidtheatre.com
When: April 6-11
Tickets: $25

Songwriter and musician Sarah MacDougall and writer and storyteller Ivan Coyote found a way to make the constraints and limitations of the pandemic work in their favour with their new collaboration, Out of This Blue.

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Out of This Blue brings together new music from MacDougall and new stories and spoken word from Coyote in an original production that will have its world première online Tuesday through Intrepid Theatre.

Sean Guist of Intrepid Theatre, which is presenting Out of This Blue through April 11 at intrepidtheatre.com, said when the lockdown began last year, Coyote started responding to correspondence they had received over the previous 11 years.

“Unanswered emails, letters, notes tucked under their windshield after gigs. That’s where the show kind of started.”

MacDougall and Coyote combined their unique talents for the production, with Coyote’s stories and ruminations accompanying new pandemic-themed music from MacDougall. The mash-up of storytelling and music was recorded on three cameras at their home studio in London, Ontario, where Coyote serves as the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity at Western University.

The 45-minute piece has an of-the-moment appeal, thanks to a mixture of the intimate and the interpersonal. Coyote is exceedingly well-suited to that format, having mixed mediums over three albums of storytelling and music and a quarter-century of performing. Out of This Blue is unique, however, in that it was written entirely during a period of extended activity, Guist said.

“It was inspired by the pandemic, it was created during the pandemic, and it will be viewed during the pandemic,” he said.

MacDougall, who is originally from Sweden, has not seen members of her family in over a year, and used Out of This Blue to communicate her feelings through song. By the end of writing sessions for the production, the couple had created an homage to family, friendship, mortality and the ways in which people connect through music.

“That is covered in the gamut of the show,” Guist said. “It’s such a heartbreaking but also heartwarming show, because you really feel like everyone is going through the same thing. They have said that this show only developed because they had this stillness and solitude, because they were in lockdown and couldn’t tour.”

It’s not strictly a soul-baring exercise, however. There are many moments of levity from the seasoned performers, Guist said. “There is a charm and charisma about the two of them, because they have toured for so long. Ivan says: ‘We had time to watch the garden turn green.’ They have never been at home for this long, so this is what they came up with.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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