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Director’s Notes: Chelsea Haberlin and John Cooper on The Pipeline Project

Kevin Loring, Quelemia Sparrow, Sebastien Archibald. Photo by David Cooper.

The Pipeline Project promises to be a provocative piece designed to encourage debate. Peak oil, First Nations land claims, and climate change are explored with humour and insight in this hybrid of verbatim theatre and personal storytelling. Inspired by the Vancouver Observer’s Extract: The Pipeline Wars, the show follows three actor-playwrights as they struggle to dramatize the book while wrestling with their own compliance with fossil fuel dependency and First World privilege. At once beautiful, confrontational, and meditative, The Pipeline Project promises to be a provocative piece designed to encourage debate.”

Chelsea Haberlin: The Pipeline Project has been three years in the making. The impulse for the creating this piece came from veteran director, John Cooper, who had the idea, assembled the team, and sent us off on a journey of exploration. We used Extract: The Pipeline Wars (a book of reporting the Vancouver Observer did on the people of BC who were affected by the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline) as our starting point. From there the piece grew, and now we have a premiere—our run at Gateway Theatre is the very first time this play is being staged.

Kevin Loring, Quelemia Sparrow, Sebastien Archibald. Photo by David Cooper.

The following is an excerpt of the conversation I had with John about why he wanted to make this play:

Chelsea Haberlin: I understand that for you, the simple root question—how are we meant to live?—was really the driving force behind this process.

John Cooper: I think so. That, and I just couldn’t take it any longer.

CH: You couldn’t take what any longer?

JC: Passivity. Like me talking about things and doing nothing. That was really it. It was like [I got to a place where I felt] I don’t have the right to say anymore because I’m not doing a damn thing. I’m just a f—ing whiner.

CH: And then you said to yourself, “The thing that I do is make plays so I guess we could make a play about this”?

JC: That’s it. And I couldn’t do it on my own.

CH: Where did the impulse come from, to involve the artists that you involved?

JC: I needed somebody youthful and energetic (laughs). So I asked you.

CH: This whole process has been a massive learning experience for me. The deeper we went the more I realized just how little I know.

JC: And knowing how little you know is true knowledge.

CH: Thank you for engaging in this conversation with us.

Immersive theatre company ITSAZOO and aboriginal performance company Savage Society bring to life a vibrant and personal account of the ongoing political battles over pipelines. Peak oil, First Nations land claims, and climate change are all explored with humour and empathy in this timely, meta-theatrical event. The Pipeline Project at Gateway Theatre on March 9-18. Get your tickets hereScreen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.17.41 AM
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Chelsea is Co-Artistic Producer of ITSAZOO Productions and Associate Artistic Director of Neworld Theatre. Favourite ITSAZOO directing credits: Hidden, The Competition is Fierce, Killer Joe (Jessie Richardson Award winner for Outstanding Production), The Flick, Mojo, Grimm Tales, and Death of a Clown. Chelsea holds a MFA in directing from UBC and a BFA from UVic.

John Cooper has directed over 140 productions at theatres across Canada, with numerous productions for The Arts Club Theatre and The Vancouver Playhouse, winning several Jessie Richardson Awards for Outstanding Direction. Most recently John directed Tomson Highway’s THE (POST)MISTRESS (Arts Club Theatre). John also has the privilege of spending creative time with some of our directors of the future as he teaches directing for UBC’s Department of Theatre and Film.