Special to The Record
You will never be able to look at the bicycle the same way again after experiencing multi-media show SPIN.
Versatile Toronto performer Evalyn Parry will present her creation Sept. 20 at the Sid Williams Theatre as part of the Sid’s Blue Circle Series, and sponsored by Courtenay Recreation.
SPIN – billed as “Starring the Bicycle as muse, musical instrument, and agent of social change” – has toured extensively around Canada and the U.S. since it premiered in Toronto in 2011.
Why a bike?
Why focus on the bicycle?
“It began with my own love of cycling,” Parry responds in an interview. “I’m mostly an urban cyclist and I’ve used the bike most of my life to get around.”
When she wrote SPIN, she “wanted to find a bridge between my theatre practice and my singer-songwriter-spoken word practice – make a show that combined those things into one performance.
“As I was searching for a theme … cycling came to me as a passion and something I was interested in and curious to investigate.
“I had heard other people speak about the same feeling, about how much joy the simple act of riding a bike seems to give those who love to cycle. It’s a very singular sort of feeling that the bike gives us.”
Parry had also heard about a connection between the bicycle and the women’s emancipation movement of the late-19th century.
“As I began to research women’s suffrage and the early women’s rights movement indeed there was a gold mine of amazing stories about women and bicycles from the turn of the century that were incredibly inspiring and a real revelation to me.”
Inspired by Londonderry
Annie Londonderry, for example.
“She was the first woman to ride around the world on a bike, in 1895,” Parry says of the Latvian native who reinvented herself after moving to the U.S. “Just discovering her story blew my mind a little bit,” states Parry, who says Londonderry’s story is featured prominently in SPIN.
“She starts riding the bike wearing full-length dress and corset and petticoats and the whole Victorian women’s dress of the day. As she goes, she starts to make modifications to her outfit, which make riding more easy.”
The evolution of Londonderry’s dress played a role in a transition of women’s fashion, “giving women more freedom of mobility.”
While riding what Parry calls her “freedom machine,” she says “quiet genius” Londonderry pioneered such modern techniques as public relations and advertising spin.
Londonderry, says Parry, sold advertising on her bike and her clothes, becoming in essence a moving billboard.
Parry sees a parallel between Londonderry’s epic quest and “what it means to be an independent artist nowadays and how you have to be your own PR machine.”
Not a one-person performance, SPIN includes Brad Hart actually playing a 1970s bicycle as a percussion instrument.
“The very first time we tried it, it was just hitting the bike to see if it makes noise,” Parry chuckles.
The addition of small contact microphones on the bike created “this whole new world of unexpected and amazing sounds. At the end of the show, people walk up and stare at the bicycle.”
Evalyn Parry performs SPIN on Sept. 20 at the Sid Williams Theatre.
“Part theatre, part musical gig, part spoken-word poetry and part documentary … whatever it is, it is brilliant,” wrote the Toronto Star.
Parry comes by her social conscience honestly.
Her father David was a member of iconic Toronto folk ensemble The Friends of Fiddler’s Green, and her mother Caroline was a children’s music performer, author and folklorist. Evalyn’s brother Richard is a member of Arcade Fire.
More about Parry is at www.evalynparry.com. For details about her Sid performance, visit www.sidwilliamstheatre.com or phone 250-338-2430.
Mark Allan is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Comox Valley Record.