erring: n. a state of wandering
Erring (1996) by Tracy Shumate
See excerpts of Erring (1996) in development, taken from a full-length video shot by Brian Mitolo. From the first tours of the spaces above the Only Café to demolishing rooms, installing the artistic environments, painting the hallways and rehearsing the plays prior to opening night.
Erring was a multidisciplinary event staged June 14 and 15, 1996 by members of the Union Theatre collective in vacant apartments above The Only Café that were being demolished to make way for The Gordon Best Theatre.
Erring on the Mount is using the word ‘erring’ in the same way it was used in 1996. Many familiar with the idiom “to err is human” associate erring with sins, or mistakes. But its Latin root is errant, meaning ‘to wander’. The first Erring, and now Erring on the Mount, embrace these varied meanings to describe an event in which artists and audiences alike are invited to search for new and unusual experiences in an unfamiliar place.
As ground zero for Peterborough’s downtown arts scene in 1996, The Only Café was a natural choice for the event: the idea was hatched there over a few pints; the 2nd and 3rd floors above the café were about to be demolished to make way for a beautiful new theatre/bar/restaurant; and the owners of the café, Jerome and Charon Ackhurst were big theatre supporters. After all, just 4 years earlier the Café had served as a kind of midwife for the birth of the 4th Line Theatre, today the area’s most successful theatre company. Now that same theatre community, which had been operating a space called the Union Theatre (a hot house for alternative theatre) was without a home, evicted by a landlord looking for more money and less riffraff.
The idea for Erring was that it would do two things: provide a place to create some theatre and, since all artists would donate their time, generate funds to find a new space.
To determine which artists would fill the limited spaces available, the organizers of Erring created randomly matched teams composed of a writer/director, a performer and a visual artist. In each of seven rooms, a writer would contribute a script or story, an actor or dancer would perform, and a visual artist would create a unique environment. And in each case, the artistic teams were created by drawing names out of a beer pitcher, contributing to the edgy energy of the event. In addition, seven performers were chosen as guides to lead the audience from room to room. To accommodate more artists two bathrooms were turned into artistic installations as were the hallways. Even the outside fire escape was added as an 8th performance site. The result was that more than 70 artists and supporters and 50 businesses – as named in the program - contributed in one way or another to an event produced completely without public funding.
One challenge in creating this event was to name it. Credit for that goes to one Sarah Clift, who drew on the Latin meaning of the word: ‘to wander’. In 1996 Peterborough's alternative theatre community was in search of a place to play and perhaps make some mistakes or even commit a few sins along the way.