Cars, stories and people

Of all the projects OTL has created, Car Stories is most certainly the longest-running, at times has been the most controversial and if it wasn’t for the infringement Festival, a true viral phenomenon, it would undoubtedly be the best known.

In a nutshell, Car Stories is a play containing several shorter plays, a piece of street performance that is at the same time visible and invisible and a challenge to how we see both theatre and the cityscape we walk through every day.  While a good chunk of any given show will be improvised, either along the lines of a story outline or completely out of the blue, parts of it can be and frequently have been scripted as well.

Car Stories '04: Obstruction of Justice

Car Stories '04: Obstruction of Justice

An audience, usually three spect-actors at a time, assembles in front of the show opener in a public place (a bar, a park, etc).  When that actor lowers his or her Optative Glasses (just a pair of ordinary sunglasses) over their eyes, it’s like the curtain going up.  The show begins and the audience is now in a different, theatrical world.  The opener establishes the show’s theme and sends the audience off on a mission with an Urban Guide who walks them, in character, down a street or an alleyway to a parked car.  There are more actors waiting in the front seat of the parked car with a 10-15 minute scene.  The audience sits in the back, watches and sometimes partakes.  Afterwards, another guide picks them up and usually brings them to another car.  The show continues until the audience is brought to the closer who finishes off the story and removes their Optative Glasses, sending the audience back to the world they recognize.

The individual car stories are self-contained pieces as are some of the guide routes, but they are generally incorporated into, add to or at the very least are related to the overall theme of the show.  The theme stays the same for a run of the show, while the individual parts of it will inevitably vary.  No two shows are ever the same. We will frequently keep a theme alive for an entire season but occasionally we will have a spur-of-the-moment theme for a particular run adopted to respond to something that is happening and very prevalent, as we did for our Buffalo run in 2007.

Car Stories 07 promo shot

Car Stories '07 promo shot

We generally perform the show several times in a day for different groups of spect-actors who not only experience watching a show, but are also part of an invisible performance for everyone else on the street.  In fact, one of the thrills for the audience is not knowing who is part of the show and who isn’t.  Performers in the show get to experience dealing with unpredictable players such as the audience and people passing by who don’t know that there’s a show on.

In addition to being a jam on what is considered theatre and our perception of the often corporate-branded public space in a general context, Car Stories has also included some more specifically-targeted jams into it’s story’s matrix.  In Montreal, we have sent the show through the Pharmaprix on St-Laurent Boulevard on more than one occasion as a challenge to their violation of the historic character of the street with their glaring corporate signage.  In 2006, the Montreal opening of our show had the spect-actors play PartyPoker partiers in a jam on‘s temporary ownership of the lower half of the Main.

Loosely inspired by Car Show, a production from the Corn Exchange in Dublin, which has the plays in cars element but not the guided tour through the Urban Wonderland or much of the ontological jolting our show is known for, Car Stories was first staged in 2001 at the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, where it was promptly ejected for theatrically playing with a theatre critic who didn’t quite get the joke.  The critic worked for a corporate sponsor of the festival, the festival got nervous and the rest, as they say, is history.

Car Stories ran for the next few years on its own and in 2004 helped to spark and took part in the first infringement Festival in Montreal.  That summer, it toured to Ottawa and Toronto.  In 2005, it played the Montreal infringement again, the first edition of the Buffalo infringement Festival as well as in New York City’s infringement.  The next year, it played in the first Regina infringement and inspired a version in Denmark.

Car Stories Denmark

Car Stories Denmark

In 2006, it also returned to play the Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Buffalo infringement Festivals with its “Church of Capitalism” theme.  The Toronto edition of this show was turned into a 30-minute video from Guerilla Video Productions that follows one group of spect-actors from start to finish.  Car Stories isn’t a stranger to video.  The close quarters of performers and audience make this theatre show a nice fit for film and our shows have been caught on camera since 2004.

Three other shows have been given similar video treatments as the Church of Capitalism, still following the story from start to finish but flipping between different groups of spect-actors.  They are 2007’s les journées de la culture outing entitled The Last Greenspace, dealing with the real causes and effects of construction on boulevard St-Laurent, the Halloween-themed sCARe Stories of the same year and 2008’s JDLC show entitled The Search for Pure Water.  The latter was staged the end of September and the video version premiers online tomorrow night as part of the infringement TV launch which begins at 7pm eastern time.

Car Stories doesn’t show signs of being put into park anytime soon.  While our Montreal group will surely mount it again for this year’s infringement Festival, there is no reason why other groups in different communities around the world can’t do the same thing.

To watch The Search for Pure Water on infringement TV, tune into on Thursday, January 22nd at 7pm eastern.

For more on the show and to find out how to get involved, keep checking or contact

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