"There are moments where I laugh and think, I shouldn't be laughing at this," admits Michelle Ramsay the lighting designer of The Art of Building a Bunker. "I think that will be the reaction of people across the board. There may very well be walkouts from people who are offended."
Ramsay's job, and passion, is "creating beautiful pictures to look at and have them be part of the story," but at the moment she is, "the most behind in terms of momentum." Though The Art of Building a Bunker was a hit at Summerworks, for Ramsay it isn't a remount. "I was working with a house plot to accommodate the five other companies, the shows we were sharing the space with. This time I'm hanging my own lights, deciding where the colours go, fully designing."
The Art of Building a Bunker concerns a week in the life of an Elvis who is being forced to endure a week of sensitivity training. Ramsay explains that the action switches between the office and Elvis' home, a bunker, "When we get down in the bunker that's what I like the most. I'm really proud of the bunker look. The set design by Camellia Koo is the outline of a structure and I get to play a lot with shooting lights through the structure."
Ramsay lauds the team effort involved in creating this one-man show, with particular praise for originators Guillermo Verdecchia and Adam Lazarus. Verdecchia has a colourful theatrical history with an emphasis on politics, particularly racial politics, and clowning. Lazarus is the artistic director of the Toronto Festival of Clowns, worked with Sébastien Heins on Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera, and was the writer and director of Bleed. The delectable Phil Luzi starred in Bleed during Buddies’ Rhubarb Festival, and it was a comic tour de force that was also polarizing: I laughed and squirmed until my sides ached, but several audience members fled in horror. One actually vomited.
Ramsay designed the lighting for Bleed and confirms that Lazarus is continuing to push the limits of what an audience can handle. She describes The Art of Building a Bunker as, "It's commentary, a satire looking at political correctness. What is offensive to some is not to others. It's definitely a comedy and, depending on your sense of humour, you might find it funny. Or not. I find it funny."
The Art of Building a Bunker runs Sat, Oct 11 to Sun, Nov 2 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. factorytheatre.ca