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What I Wish I’d Known: Blood Pact Theatre

iPhoto caption: Bri Poke and Bryce Hodgson / Photo by Graham Isador

In What I Wish I’d Known, Graham Isador asks theatre artists what advice they’d give younger versions of themselves. The question is a jumping off point for larger conversations about the artist’s work.

When Bri Poke and Bryce Hodgson told me they got a space I pictured a dingy backroom in a bar somewhere. Maybe a closet sized room on the outskirts of the city or a place in the financial district with a four foot ceiling. Checking out the Grand Canyon, a converted garage space in Toronto’s Junction, I was pleasantly surprised by pretty much everything. The tall roofs, lighting rig, and moveable seats all read really professional. Walking into the space Poke and Hodgson were painting flats and setting up for an all female skateboarding event hosted in the space that weekend.

The duo are the current team behind Blood Pact Theatre, and expats from Vancouver. Since moving to the city the two have been constantly producing work, putting a mark on the community and integrating themselves flawlessly into the scene. Now with a space of their own they’re set to make next moves forward. Ahead of Grand Canyon’s official launch I spoke with the pair about the space, the company, and what their younger selves would think about where they’re at.

Graham Isador: What drew you to Toronto after making theatre in Vancouver? What was it that attracted you to the city?

Blood Pact: We felt that there wasn’t much of an inspiring theatre scene in Vancouver, definitely one fit for the DIY style that we love to create in. Upon moving to Toronto, it was immediately clear that we had found a home that accepted our style of theatre-making.

Very quickly Blood Pact had success in the Toronto scene. For those who didn’t get a chance to see the first few productions can you explain what they were? How did the success feel?

We premiered our first play, Kill Your Parents in Viking Alberta at Storefront Theatre in September of 2016-this play was about three siblings coming together to hash out the details of their grandmother’s will during a snowstorm. Up next, we did After Wrestling as part of Factory Theatre’s 2017/18 season. The play was about two siblings living together in the wake of their best friend’s suicide. Finally, last December, we put on No Clowns Allowed at Assembly Theatre-a story about two ghosts, living as neighbours in the afterlife.

Re: success – we’ve been super lucky. Storefront Theatre was great to us in opening their doors and helping us find our footing. They also introduced us to Factory, and through their connections and loyalty to us, we were able to build our following.

Is there anything you learned from putting the shows up? Anything you would have done differently?

Definitely. We didn’t know how to put up plays before Kill Your Parents– and to be completely honest, sometimes it feels like we still don’t. When Storefront asked us to be a part of their season, they assumed we knew what we were doing, and we lied and said we did.

Like we said before, we’ve been lucky, and have collected a wonderful family of artists and creators along the way.

Photo by Graham Isador

Blood Pact is opening up a space this week. What was the decision to open up the space? What is the vibe you’re trying to create from the theatre?

We’ve always wanted to run a venue. Which is something near impossible living in Vancouver. When we moved here, it was definitely a goal, but it wasn’t until we found this space, that it all came together. Right place, right time kinda thing.

The vibe we want to provide is an “anything space” for artists to do whatever they want to. We also want to provide to the community, and become a space for artists and non-artists to come together and have a good time.

You’ve already hosted community events in the space. How important is it to reach beyond the theatre scene and what is the desire to do that?

Bri comes from a film background, Bryce comes from a skateboard/punk background, our other partner Quinn comes from a music background . . . we as a team are already a bit of a hodgepodge, it’s just second nature for us to always be working in different mediums. We want the space to function the same way too.

Do you think your younger selves would be happy about the company and opening the space? Is there any advice you would give to them?

Absolutely. Be excellent to each other. San Dimas high school football rules.

Blood Pact opens their new space this Saturday. Details can be found here.

Graham Isador

Graham Isador

Graham Isador is a writer and theatre creator based in Toronto. Best known for his time as a contributing editor with VICE, his work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the BBC, and GQ. Isador is the author of several plays including Situational Anarchy, Served, and White Heat.



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