Stage Door News
Stratford: “Divine Interventions” by Anika Johnson plays Gallery Stratford September 18
Monday, September 13, 2021
Anika Johnson went through a unique process as she attempted to come up with a suite of songs to carry Divine Interventions, an outdoor musical coming to her hometown this weekend at Gallery Stratford.
“That was a weird challenge to find sounds that would communicate emotion and intent, but not words we recognize,” she said. “It was a lot of pacing around and telling (my boyfriend) not to listen while I make voices.”
The Dora Award-winning composer also co-created the Corpus DanceProjects production, a playful response to the challenges of 2020 and beyond.
Five goddesses descend from the heavens on a giant, quint-tandem bicycle, having received word that the world is in dire need of their help.
“(The bike) was so hard to ride, which was a huge surprise trying to balance all of them,” Johnson said. “It took a while to figure out how to make it work, but it’s a good metaphor for this moment in time because we won’t work through it unless we work together.”
Through Johnson’s songs, the play offers blessings, prayers, guidance and the occasional rebuke.
“This seems like a time when the world can use (divine intervention),” she said. “We can’t figure out what to do, so we need something to descend to help us.”
There’s no traditional talking in the performance, just a steady stream of six songs Johnson wrote, deconstructed, recorded and remixed. The music weaves throughout the play, serving as its language and sung a capella in five-part harmony by a female cast that includes Stratford’s Barbara Fulton and former Festival actor Tracy Michailidis.
“It’s always so fun to come home and share work,” Johnson said. “The community of Stratford is so much a part of who I am and has raised me and made me an artist.”
Johnson, 34, grew up singing in choirs, and she credited King Lear senior public school music teacher Suzanne Strahan for part of her early musical growth.
“Singing chorally is the best training you can get as a musician,” Johnson said. “I was drawing on a lot of that experience.”
The musical, presented locally by SpringWorks, was first performed last year in Toronto, and the Stratford shows kick off a series of performances in Southwestern Ontario and the GTA.
• Amos Waites Park, Toronto, September 24-25 at 1pm and 4pm
• Lee Lifeson Park, Toronto, October 1-2 at 1pm and 4pm
• Bell Manor Park, Toronto, October 8-9 at 1pm and 4pm
“It’s a cool opportunity because I think the piece really speaks to this moment,” Johnson said. “People really responded (last summer). There’s something about hearing live singing and the magic of this bike. It has to be seen to be believed.”
IF YOU GO
What: Divine Interventions musical
Where: Gallery Stratford’s grounds
When: Sept. 18 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Rain date Sept. 19)
How much: Pay what you choose. One fee per pod of up to five people who live or care for each other in the same household, “bubble,” group or family, or pick a single price for your whole pod, $20 and up.
By Cory Smith for www.stratfordbeaconherald.com
Photo: Cast of Divine Interventions.