Stage Door News
Toronto: Immersive gaming and live performance meet in “No Save Points” running June 6-25
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
This June, creator/performer Sébastien Heins invites Toronto to a joyous, high-octane, deeply personal adventure story, all experienced at the touch of a button. Video games, theatre and memoir collide as Heins places the control(er) in the hands of the audience, entrusting them to pilot his performance using state-of-the-art motion capture and haptic technology. Intimate and innovative, the piece is inspired by the real-life story of Heins’ mother being diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a rare genetic illness. No Save Points is crafted for gamers and theatre-lovers alike, and explores the universal question: “what do we do with the time that we have?”
No Save Points is propelled by Heins’ virtuosic performance as he becomes a video game character before our very eyes. A select group of audience members will sit onstage in the “Player’s Pen” where they’ll use a wireless controller to direct Heins’ actions by sending signals to receivers located on his body. Later in the show, dozens more patrons will get to take their turn playing on the buttons, and by the end of the evening the whole audience will take control of the performance. Throughout it all, they will help our hero negotiate medieval court intrigue, save citizens as a caped crusader, side-scroll across a mysterious island and, ultimately, find himself anew on the dark side of the moon. So be sure to bring your A-B game.
A veteran and audience-favourite of the Toronto theatre scene since his debut at age 10 in Julie Taymore’s The Lion King, Heins has spent three seasons as a performer at the Stratford Festival, and played leading roles for Soulpepper, Factory Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times, Theatre Passe Muraille and Canadian Stage. His previous award-winning solo show Brotherhood: The Hip-Hopera has toured festivals around the world, from New York City to Mumbai.
"As a child, games were my avenue of escape,” says Heins. “Years later, when my family learned about my mother’s diagnosis, once again I wanted to escape. This show is about the confrontation between my imagination and reality… the chasm of coping that exists between fantasy and truth… and the whimsical imperative to live.”
Heins is the Associate Artistic Director and a founding member of Outside the March, one of Canada’s leading immersive theatre companies. Since 2010, OtM has premiered more than two dozen landmark and innovative productions including Trojan Girls, Lessons in Temperament, The Tape Escape, Dr. Silver, TomorrowLoveTM and the international pandemic phenomenon The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries. OtM is led by multi-Dora Award winning Artistic Director Mitchell Cushman, who co-directs No Save Points in collaboration with Heins. The show is produced by Managing Producer Katherine Devlin Rosenfeld, who has overseen all of the company’s most complex site-specific creations.
“What excites me most about No Save Points is the way in which it captures the parallel tracks that immersive theatre and video games have been on these last numbers of years”, says Cushman. “Theatre has been working to become more interactive, to make the audience’s presence more essential to the live experience—just as video games have been deepening their emotional resonance and narrative ambitions. Sébastien has found a breathtaking way to marry both mediums, in order to share his family’s unique and powerful story.”
The show’s series of distinct playable worlds have each been co-conceived by a different acclaimed cross-disciplinary creator: Damien Atkins, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Rouvan Silogix, Aylwin Lo and Kemi King, with dramaturgical support from Dora award-winning playwright Rosamund Small. "Sébastien is a force of nature” describes Atkins. “When he told me the gift that he wanted to craft for the audience, for his mom, for himself—I was astounded.”
Continuing Outside the March’s long tradition of remarkable immersive design, the many worlds of No Save Points are all contained inside of an enormous, 15 foot-tall Gameboy-like structure, dreamt up by multi-Dora Award-winner and long-time OtM resident designer Anahita Dehbonehie. “This piece tackles a deeply human and emotional story while giving in to gameplay, virtuosity and pure fun” says Dehbonehie. “And it’s felt that way to design it as well, starting with an eye to what will be a joy to experience, even as we work to break the audience's heart wide open.”
The production’s custom-built controller system was co-engineered by Heins and Creative Technologist Stephen Surlin, and is inspired by SMS buzzes, remote control cars and drone technology. One sequence lets the audience play as a digital 10-year-old boy, animated live by Heins wearing a “Shadow” motion capture suit. Another sequence lets the entire audience control the events of a single day with a live voting system developed in partnership with Sheridan College’s SIRT Centre. These systems were conceived in collaboration with David Rokeby and the University of Toronto’s BMO Lab, a transdisciplinary hub for intersections between performance and emerging technologies, and a contributing partner on No Save Points.
The production’s versatile and international design and technical team also includes Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy storyboard artist Alex Lyons (illustrator), Melissa Joakim (lighting), Heidi Chan (composition and sound), Laura Warren (video) Tori Morrison (production management), and recent OtM Artistic Accomplice design mentorship graduate Niloufar Zaiee (costumes), working alongside lead game developer Aidan Wong and 3D Graphic Modeler Youil Samara.
No Save Points is presented by Starvox Entertainment at Lighthouse ArtSpace at 1 Yonge St. (Immersive Van Gogh, Immersive Disney Animation). “We are thrilled to continue our association with Outside the March to bring this innovative theatrical experience to Toronto” adds Starvox Entertainment President and CEO Corey Ross. “Outside the March creates unforgettable encounters – redefining the experience of theatre for a new generation of audiences. No Save Points bridges the real and the digital with a deeply human story. This immersive theatrical presentation is something I have never seen before”.
The production is produced in association with Modern Times Stage Company (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo). "Modern Times is excited to engage in imaginative, theatrical-form defying & exploring work, especially those that empower important and necessary Canadian voices.” says Modern Times Artistic Director Rouvan Silogix. “Sébastien's work is all this and more, and we couldn't be prouder to share this beautiful piece with the world!"
It is also produced with support from the University of Toronto’s BMO Lab and from Hilltop Studios, an innovative Toronto start-up exploring intersections between digital storytelling, gaming and multimedia spheres.
Throughout the run, No Save Points will be raising funds for the Huntington’s Society of Canada, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those affected by the fatal hereditary brain disorder by facilitating support services, providing access to educational resources, increasing awareness, advocacy, and investing in research. Says Heins, “The HSC has helped my family and we want to help theirs.”
No Save Points opens June 13th for a limited engagement, with select preview “Playtest Performances” available as of June 6th. Tickets are on sale for performances through to June 25th.
For more information and tickets:
Preview playtest performances:
Artsworker/under 30 - $29.99
General Admission - $44.99
Artsworker/under 30 - $29.99
General Admission - $44.99
General Admission (Friday and Saturday night) - $54.99
VIP - $69.99
VIP (Friday and Saturday night) - $79.99