MRU theatre grad student’s electric debut
Alumni debuts self-written and self-directed play
While most students use summer to take a break from school, one Mount Royal graduate decided to apply what he learned to make an electrifying debut in his field.
Steven Evanik, a graduate of the now-defunct Theatre Arts program, wrote and directed A Spark Extinguished — which premiered this summer at the Birds and Stone Theatre here in Calgary. The play is about Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe project and has a strong, character-driven plot which focuses on Tesla, Mark Twain and John Pierpont Morgan.
Evanik, who graduated from MRU in 2012, was inspired by this project from an unusual source – Assassin’s Creed II.
“It was a video game that led me to the story of Tesla,” said Evanik. “There are these little puzzles, and they have these cool conspiracy theories that tie into real history, and one of them had a letter from Morgan to (Thomas) Edison about how (Tesla) was gaining power too fast.”
He then went and researched Tesla, and Wardenclyffe Tower story enticed him so much that he had to tell the story. Using what he learned at MRU, that dream soon became a reality.
“The experiences with the directors from MRU are where I’m pulling my knowledge from,” he said. “I’m really drawing from what I learned with them.”
It isn’t just the professors that Evanik benefitted from, as two of the three cast members were actors he graduated with.
Byron Allen and David Dudar played the roles of Tesla and Twain respectively, both of whom graduated with Evanik last year. Tyler Fraser, who rounded out the cast, was also a Mount Royal grad, although from a few years before.
Allen couldn’t have been more thrilled to have worked under Evanik .
“We’re finally on opposite sides after being on the same team for so long, but he’s a very solid, very intellectual individual,” said Allen. “Working with him is just super easy and really quite rich.
“It makes it so much easier to settle into the role.”
The show itself drew a good response from Calgary, having a positive reception in its limited run. A Spark Extinguished is something that Evanik plans on going back to in the future —which he should.
The show starts slow, which is a dangerous line for Evanik to walk with a new creation as the show could have easily fizzled before it truly got underway. However, after taking the time to establish the scene and the plot, the interactions between the three characters become natural, allowing for the play to run smoothly — showcasing Evanik’s work as both a writer and a director.
The play picks up steam over a scene of a pool game, which allowed both the characters and the writing to settle down and grab a hold of the audience, a grip that would not let go of for the duration of the one-act play.
It is unfortunate that what should be considered a success story for the school comes at a time where they have extinguished their own sparks, so to speak. Evanik, while not personally affected by the cuts, doesn’t believe the right choices were made.
“I have a lot of strong feelings about the cuts,” professed Evanik. “I think it’s disappointing that the school has become more business-orientated and interested on protecting profits than it is ensuring education is happening in a multitude of ways.
“I think they were asking the wrong questions. I think if they would have asked about education instead of business and profit-motive, then we would still have a theatre program.”
Still though, while looking on the bright side, Evanik is just the latest alumni to remind Calgary what kind of professional work comes out of MRU.