ADVENTURE- Actor Joel Crichton recently returned from a journey throughout Europe that took him from France and Spain to Germany and Portugal. The trip helped inspire his latest play Divide

Life-changing journey results in poignant production

Former City actor writes new play based on extraordinary trek

There’s something about exploring faraway regions that enriches a life – personally and creatively. That’s what Joel Crichton learned during a recent overseas trek that took him from France, Spain and Portugal to such culturally rich cities as Rome and Prague.

Crichton, who hails from Calgary and now calls Edmonton home, completed the theatre studies program at Red Deer College in 2006. He went on to graduate from the University of Alberta’s BFA acting program in 2009.

Besides being a tremendous actor, he’s also been playing music for Rapid Fire Theatre since the fall of 2007. He also has worked as composer/musical director/sound designer for a number of productions.

Crichton, 25, penned a play born from his overseas experiences, and is the sole performer in the production as well. Staged by Ignition Theatre, Divide runs March 22-25 in the Nickel Studio. Doors open at 7 p.m. with curtain at 7:30 p.m.

There is also a matinee on March 25 at 2 p.m.

Back in September, Crichton left France on a journey to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The famous route he took, called ‘The Way of St. James’, was used by pilgrims in medieval times to visit the site of St. James’ burial. These days, people embark on the journey for all sorts of reasons, explains Crichton. Some use the time to reflect on life decisions, to enrich their sense of spirituality or to reflect.

For Crichton, he was at something of a crossroads and had pretty much decided he wanted to quit acting. He wanted to think about moving away from various other projects of an artistic nature, even considering a return to school to study engineering. And even though he was on his own, it’s the kind of journey where it’s easy to connect with other travelers.

“That was the most interesting part. People are there for some sort of purpose, so you have these really deep conversations quite quickly. And with that much time for meditation and reflection, you really learn about yourself.”

Upon arrival in Santiago, he decided to continue onto Portugal. The adventure continued with a fascinating albeit challenging stint onboard a tall ship which was bound for the Canary Islands. The days were full – Crichton helped with everything from ship maintenance and steering to cooking.

He later spent some time at Cape Verde, off the coast of Senegal. As Christmas approached, he flew to Rome to spend the season with his mom. Then it was off to Germany, then to Prague and Crichton ended his trip with visits to Vienna and Salzburg, Austria.

It was during his last day in Europe he penned the first draft of Divide. He has been writing bits of the script throughout his trip, but finally the pieces came together for the very personal story.

Divide, directed by Beau Coleman, consists of three characters telling their own stories, and Crichton plays each part. During the first part he covers a trip to the West Coast Trail and his experiences in Prague – all told from his own perspective as the ‘Joel’ of today.

Part two is told from the perspective of his son some 30 years in the future who has embarked on a pilgrimage to the Vatican along the route to Santiago. But it’s a bleak world, having been ravaged by climate change, conflict and food shortages.

Finally, we meet Joel’s granddaughter whose story occurs another 30 years down the road. She’s on a scientific pilgrimage on a ship, but has other personal issues to face. That’s the case with each character. As Crichton explains, they are all searching for something but they are each running away from situations as well.

Clearly, Crichton has had a change of heart about acting. “With the time for reflection and being so emotionally open and present with people, I thought maybe there is a reason to continue acting.”

Meanwhile, he is excited to bring his latest offering to Red Deer.

“This show is personal; it’s about me. And Red Deer is very much a part of me. I studied at RDC for two years, and have come back almost every year since to either act in one of Ignition’s shows or do one of my own,” he says. “I am also excited, because I know that Divide will be a show unlike any that has ever been seen here. It’s not quite a play, though there are play-like elements in it; nor is it straight storytelling.

“The best description I can give is that it is an inter-disciplinary piece that involves song, storytelling, several characters, adventure, love, fear and desperation.”

For more information and tickets, check out www.ignitiontheatre.ca.

editor@reddeerexpress.com