Dr. Heidegger and the Sketchy Experiment

Ghastly-themed sketch salon calls amateur and experienced artists to view theatrical tableaus

Local artist hard at work on his interpretation of the dramatic tableau. (Jennifer Will/The Omega)

Local artist hard at work on his interpretation of the dramatic tableau. (Jennifer Will/The Omega)

On Oct. 22 and 23, BC Living Arts hosted two sold-out sketch salons at the Old Courthouse. Inspired by the short story “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, this event catered to the art crowd with its uniqueness and flair. After being escorted in by the butler, the doctor invites the audience to try his elixir and join in the fun of the elusive experiment.

This event consisted of five tableaus posed by live actors in 10 minute increments, creating a dramatic scene for artists to sketch. Each tableau told a piece of the story and gave clues to the motives of the characters and of the doctor’s experimentation.

The story starts with a rose given to Dr. Heidegger by Sylvia Ward, left as a memento of their time together before she left him. Ward was Heidegger’s lover and they were set to be married. The flower is now crumbling and withered, showing the time that has passed since she ran off. Heidegger poses a question to the audience: “Would you deem it possible that this rose of half a century could ever bloom again?”

Heidegger introduces the urban legend of the mysterious fountain of youth, sought out by many. He was told of its location by an old friend who was aware of the doctor’s curiosity in such matters. This acquaintance of Heidegger’s has sent him a sample of water from the fountain in a vase he crafted, in which Heidegger now keeps the rose, allowing the flower to blossom a second time and regain its formative years.

Heidegger offers the audience a chance to join the investigation and sample the golden elixir (water from the fountain of youth). The elixir offers glorious virtues and the chance to restore you to your flourishing youth. Heidegger explains that he does not wish to participate himself, as he has had “much trouble growing old,” and therefore wishes to just observe the experiment.

“Just before you drink, it would be well that with the experience of a lifetime to direct you, you should draw up a few general rules for your guidance, in passing the second time through the perils of youth. Think what a sin and shame it would be if with your peculiar advantages you should not become patterns of virtue and wisdom to all the young people of the age. So come my friends, step forward and don’t be shy. Take a glass of the elixir and come through to my study so I may observe.”

The actors and set created a wonderful world for the audience to dive into. Never out of character in those frozen moments, they showed us the consequences of such an experiment. The soundtrack was created by a local Kamloops resident, Ronan McGrath from Barnacle Records. The music was the perfect touch, creating an eerie mood and enforcing an unpredictable outcome.

One of the event’s coordinators, Kimberley Eibl, said the purpose of this event “was just to try something new and to try experimental art projects in Kamloops. It’s kind of a mash of sketching, life drawing, theatre and literature. So this event is a terrific way to bring all of those great things together.”

Although they don’t have anything planned for the future yet, Eibl says she is just excited about having two sold-out shows.