February 9, 2016
Award-winning playwright works with K-State students
Chantal Bilodeau, playwright-in-residence for K-State Theatre's upcoming production "Forward," has been in Manhattan to assist the cast, crew and creative team in fully realizing her play. Manhattan has been only the latest stop on Bilodeau's "Forward" journey — from Montreal, where she is from, to New York, where she is currently based, to Chicago and Norway, "Forward" comes to K-State with a rich and diverse history.
"'Forward' started in 2011," Bilodeau said. "I went on a research trip; I was invited to participate in a residency that sailed for 10 days around a group of islands halfway between Norway and the North Pole. I got a lot of my inspiration from that residency, and started writing the play a year later."
"Forward" is a play that centers on topics such as climate change and global warming, but according to Bilodeau, "It's a play about people." The play focuses on Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, and his journey to set the record for sailing the closest to the North Pole. "Forward" is the Norwegian installment of a series of plays Bilodeau is authoring — the complete series is called the Arctic Cycle, and will include eight plays, each set in a different country in the Arctic Circle.
"I'm a big hiker and I've always been passionate about the environment, but I didn't start addressing that in my work until 2011," Bilodeau said. "Now it feels like I'm bringing two parts of my life together."
Jen Vellenga, "Forward's" director and head of the theatre program, has known Bilodeau since graduate school and has directed her works before. Vellenga was eager to bring Bilodeau's work to K-State and incorporate students into the process of working a new play.
"Jen works really hard to create a sense of community," Bilodeau said. "We are like a team, creating this play together, that's a part of what this play is about. I like being here, I like the atmosphere and being around the students. Everyone has been so nice and welcoming to me."
K-State Theatre presents this show in the Purple Masque Theater, with "Forward" being the first main stage production in that space. Bilodeau said she hopes students and the Manhattan community will receive the production with open arms and minds.
"The play deals with climate change but it's not meant to be preachy," Bilodeau said. "I hope people can feel that, if we feel the connection between all of us, that gives us a way to move forward."
If you missed "Forward" on opening weekend, there are four more shows at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11-13 and at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14.