February 4 & 5: Kevin Spenst

February 4 & 5: Our Dinner with Enbridge

Kevin Spenst


Wallace Shawn
Andre Gregory
24 background diners

Our Dinner with Enbridge

In a seemingly uber-Brechtian manner the 24 background diners not only mingle with the audience before the start of the play, but they also give out personal advice to help make the audience members’ lives more fulfilling. In a Theater of Cruelty twist, however, the advice involves bathing, showering, baptizing, gargling, sensory-deprevation-tanking themselves in oil. Five minutes before the start of the play, they all take their seats at the various tables arranged around the center stage table where Wallace and Andre have been involved in muted, but impassioned, dialogue.

We begin with the conversation in media res.

Andre Gregory: You know, this troupe of performers that traveled around the world, improvising commercial spectacles in front of various stores. They would need food, so they’d recreate some of Hamlet but while pretending to eat food from the store, food that they lavished with praise. They did this until an owner or clerk came out and gave them food as a thank-you or a bid at getting rid of them. Then, every night they’d put on a performance in front of a hostel, hotel or bed and breakfast.

Wallace: Isn’t that something.

Andre: But the most startling thing about them was that they rarely talked outside of their dialogue. There were usually half a dozen of them but they operated as a single entity. They inferred each other’s needs and their performances were outstandingly powerful. It came from this deep place of complete trust. You know, they relied on each other completely.

The 24 background diners hold up placards with words that read: This performance has not been financed by Enbridge, but this theater bears the name of the company, which calls itself a sustainable global corporation.

Wallace: It sounds like a kind of traveling commune.

Andre: That’s exactly how it felt. I travelled with them for a couple of months, you know, and I learned so much about the amount of communication we do without words. It’s what we do that speaks volumes. And sometimes we went without food or a place to sleep.

The 24 background diners turns placards around to reveal words that read: Many performers have had to struggle with the dilemma of receiving money from morally questionable sources. Some choose not to perform.

Andre: And one night we were performing The Big Sleep or something in front of a Hilton and the manager came out and told us how he’d lived his entire life for others, for his parents, for a scramble to the top, but seeing us, made him question everything. He started weeping, explaining how he wanted to play the klezmer, he wanted to make songs of peace for Palestine and Israel. So after this long, heart-felt conversation, he gave us keys to a room and he took off for an entirely new chapter in his life.

The 24 background diners pick up other placards to reveal words that read: Raghu Lokanathan is a musician who has refused to perform at the Coldsnap Festival in Prince George because Enbridge is an official sponsor.

Wallace: So these transformative moments actually happen. It’s not just a plot point in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Andre: Is it foolish to throw yourself on the good graces of the world? You can’t condemn the people that stick to their routines because that’s what they know as true, but if you celebrate the people who are willing to risk it all for some ideal, well you’re hopefully working towards a shift in the zeitgeist of the age.

Wallace: It’s rousing isn’t it? But you know on the other hand, for a guy like me, you know, someone who gets up and goes to work and then goes home, the real ideal is an accumulation of all those days. Of course, I want to see a better world, who doesn’t, but I might keep that job at the Hilton to pay for that security that allows me the time to write something that entertains and gets people thinking. I mean, I know something’s missing in this explanation, but hopefully in the daily routine of my life, or the plays that I write, or any gesture that I make, it’s all part of a whole that points towards some kind of change with as much honesty as possible.


Read more of Kevin’s poetry at: https://medium.com/@kevinspenst