Patrick Blenkarn on "Soliloquy in English"


Theatre Conspiracy is proud to be a presenting partner of Patrick Blenkarn's Soliloquy in English at the rEvolver Festival, running May 27 - June 4, 2017 at The Cultch, Vancouver.

Part reading circle, part documentary, and part handmade art object created from the ruins of an Oxford Dictionary, Soliloquy in Englishis a book for multiple voices about the language that connects them.

In each performance, Vancouver-based artist Patrick Blenkarn invites a small group of readers to participate in reading the book out loud, passing it from hand to hand and voice to voice. In doing so, the readers bring to life a collage of stories—interviews with the artist's friends, family, and mentors—about what it means to share and live in the English language today—the dreams it makes possible and the marks it can leave behind. Soliloquy in English is Blenkarn’s attempt to pull this lingua franca back upon itself, to get us talking about how we are talking.

TC: Tell us about the making of the book.

PB:The whole project began from my curiosity about books in performance and how to share books to create dialogue. What kind of book would we share in a performance? What language would that book be in? After finishing the interviews, I wanted to find a way to keep thinking about English as this constantly recycled language that resists standardization. So I bought a blender and recycled a dictionary and taught myself to make paper. Actually getting down to the fibres of it all came to be a really important part of the work for me. Kind of like taking apart your bicycle and putting it back together again. I made the paper (using how to guides online), dried it and rolled it smooth at a printmaking shop on Granville Island, ran each individual page through a special printer, then took the book to a bindery in North Van adventurous enough to bind it. And because I made it by hand, it will also deteriorate over the course of its performance life. But this fragility, I think, is something that really makes the sharing of the book much more tangible.

TC: What has  surprised you about other performances/readings of Soliloquy in English that you’ve done?

PB: In Toronto, I think I was most surprised by the way in which the book, its ideas and its games, functioned differently for different people. For people who grew up speaking English, and maybe never acquired a second language, it's a window into experiences some have never needed to consider. For those who do have a different mother tongue than English, much of the book—so I'm told—seems copied verbatim from their own pasts and experiences, things they've felt but maybe never articulated. So it's a surprise for me each time it's read. I've had groups of all anglophones and groups comprised entirely of people who aren't anglophones. Though despite the differences, after spending 45 minutes readings in the voices of others, people are usually pretty warmed up to share their own stories afterwards.

All of these things were surprises to me as I started to perform the book, as well as that one time when someone broke into song.

Be a part of the reading circle in Soliloquy in English: tickets here.