All the City’s a Stage : Out of Line Theatre

All the city’s a stage is a continuing look at local independent theatre companies in Winnipeg. To recommend a company for profile, contact

One Google-search away sits the open legs of a nude woman, covered only by her hand and a smeared green mess. Ideas of neglect, embarrassment and gender roles instantly barrage the mind. A further scroll down the page reveals the contents of a can of vegetable soup. This dark, bizarre, yet somehow humorous, image on Out of Line Theatre’s website demonstrates their mandate to be creators “of devised works that push aesthetic and content boundaries, out of line theatre values experimentation, multidisciplinary approaches, risk and imagination.” Indeed, peruse their website and you will get an idea of what it’s like to experience “Out of Line Theatre.”

The company incorporated in 2002, after Ian Mozdzen and Mia van Leeuwen met at the University of Winnipeg and realized their common interest in art. The company has since created original productions including the acclaimed PeepShow (2004-06) which toured nationally and remains on, and their website, as a hilarious short film. Today, their seven-year collaborative history is instantly perceptible.In my recent interview with Mozdzen and van Leeuwen, they both refer to their upcoming work as “entering a new season” or “second phase.” As van Leeuwen notes, now that they have acquired a rich background doing “work that investigates the darker side of humanity consistently,” they have outgrown the naivety of youth. For his part, Mozdzen says succiently that “with experience comes enrichment.”

Following a period of separate projects, the two will soon rejoin for “a raw and embodied response to Surrealist George Bataille’s insurgent and vertiginous short story ‘Le Mort’ (or ‘The Dead Man’).” The new work opens in Winnipeg at Studio 320 on Nov. 20, with a free show on Nov. 23, and has already been accepted into Toronto’s upcoming Rhubarb Festival. Mia explains the essential discussion of the piece as “how as a society, or even how as an art form, there are certain expectations and traditions and conventions that we follow and we are presenting a breaking of that.”

Local and international mentors have played a huge role in the training and philosophy of the two performers and their company. Influenced by working with Odin Teatret members, a world-renowned theatre troupe founded in Norway in the 1960s, longevity has became vital to the duo. The importance of history and solidarity are both foundations on which they collaborate and move forward, hoping to inspire others toward a theatre that is, as van Leeuwen describes, “much more lively and experiential” than the observational style currently in commercial theatres.

Out of Line Theatre’s edgy and experimental material might not be for everyone, but those who can handle pushing social boundaries, and aren’t afraid of public nudity, are sure to be challenged and entertained. Presenting highly physical shows, sometimes resembling dance or performance art, van Leeuwen says they seek “to take the audience on a ride emotionally, intellectually, visually [and] have them be stimulated.” To achieve this, they work without the “the forth wall” or idea that the audience is there to passively observe. This means they engage the audience with eye contact or commentary, which might make some uncomfortable or confused. But fear not, it is meant to. Indeed, Mozdzen explains that the duo “want to take creative risks, and [they] think that appeals to the University crowd who want to be challenged and want to balance off all the ideas that are being infused into their brains in school [ . . . ] and [theatre] is a great place to really entertain all those irrational and irreverent ideas.”