“Wait Until Dark” and How it Can Improve “Medea”

“Wait Until Dark”, presented by the Vertigo Theatre in The Playhouse, was a spectacular production to see. It is the story of a blind woman named Susan (played by Anna Cummer) who finds herself getting terrorized in her own home by con men who are looking for a doll. She discovers that her lack of sight but be her greatest weapon. Susan’s fears and suspense were projected beautifully unto the audience.  The acting was well done for each character, from the charming double-faced Mike to the cackling evils of Roat. The props and stage created a realistic apartment setting for the thriller to play out. The two rooms off to the left created suspense as the audience could not see what happened in those rooms. Based off the 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn, the play does an amazing job at becoming its own unique experience. The directorial decision to move the play back to the 1940’s from the movie’s later 1960 was an ingenious move. The new time setting allowed for a post-WWII film noir feel, through music and costume accordingly. It also brings the overarching service in the war as another complex part of the motivation for multiple characters. The technical work was outstanding, light work created a dynamic use of setting and projected emotions, in one instance putting the audience in Susan’s position. The only downside I noticed was Roat’s one dimensional character. Though portrayed excellently there was no real backstory nor inner reason other than greed that seemed to motivate him. There is a plethora of elements from this play that can be adapted into others, though not all of these decisions would work for every play. “Wait Until Dark” mixed all the elements of theatre to create a spectacular piece for itself.

I will be basing my directorial decisions of “Medea” on the ones made in “Wait Until Dark” [now W.U.D]. There is no specific venue that the play would need but just like W.U.D it would need to be a smaller venue. Vertigo has a perfect ratio of seats to the size of the stage and it creates a more personal experience. As Medea’s inner turmoil is my main focus, I want the venue to be smaller so that her expressions can be seen without the use of over exaggerated makeup.

Continuing with this more personal feel of “Medea” the set and props would portray a Greek garden with a set of stairs stage right that leads to a door. This would be Medea’s garden, symbolizing that it is her space that people keep on encroaching on. The door would play the same role as the two rooms in W.U.D, this is where the scene were Medea kills her children would take place. When other characters enter and leave they will either enter and leave from the stage left or pass by the stairs on stage right.

The casting of Medea would fit into the time zone. Just like W.U.D casted I would cast most of my actors to be tan. Though like W.U.D did with Roat, who wore leather while everyone else wore something plainer, I would want to emphasize Medea’s difference. I would do this with makeup decisions and even things as simple as hair colour. While the Chorus would all consist of brunettes I would give Medea black hair. Just to create subtle difference and emphasize her estrangement to Corinth.

For my performance decisions I want to emphasize Medea’s pain rather than go with an insane kind of Medea. There is a good point that the Artistic director makes about finding inner strength and refusing to be a villain. I will definitely incorporate this into my portrayal of Medea. I would want to emphasize the inner struggles of Medea. Emphasizing the pain of killing her children and even the possible mourning and sorrow as she flies away.  I also wish to emphasize the cowardliness and irritating factors of Jason.

W.U.D has an amazing scene where they turn off all the lights yet continue with the act. This is to establish a connection with Susan. There is another scene where Gloria (the helper) goes off to grab a taxi and it is only shown through audio overlap as Susan sits. This lighting and sounds effects are amazing but a bit too noticeable. For Medea the change of lighting would need to be subtle, to help emphasize her mood but not take over it. The sound decision would work though for when she is killing her two sons so that the horrible act is not on stage.

There is only a minor text alternation that I would make. In certain iteration of Euripide’s “Medea” there are lines where Medea damns her child. Either I would cut that line out or add that it is because of their resemblance to Jason. I wish to continue Medea’s struggle. I want her to come to the realization that her revenge took away something precious from her on the last scene. I also would like to add more emphasize on Medea’s contribution to Jason from their Greek mythos. This will come in the form of the Chorus muttering about some of her actions before Jason comes in.

The last scene will also show the chariot leaving. This will be a set design that is hidden behind the door on stage. This is to visually demonstrate that the gods are on Medea’s side. This decision is to further link with her Greek mythos and her connection to Helios.

In the end I want the story of Medea not to be about her going mad, but her anger taking over. I want to emphasize as much as possible that Medea is an outsider. I also want to emphasize that she is pained by her actions. For me Medea is a strong woman that let her anger of Jason’s betrayal take over her better judgement and lives with the regret in Athens.

Review of Macbeth and Impacts on Titus Andronicus

The heavily adapted Macbeth by William Shakespeare has taken many forms in film and theatre consciousness. I chose this cinematized performance to compare its unique directorial interpretations to my previous experiences with the play, and to extract inspiration for Titus Andronicus. In the Stratford Theatre production directed by Antoni Cimolino, Macbeth manifests as a monomaniacal, impetuous antihero trapped in a feverish hell of his own creation.

Macbeth is portrayed by Ian Lake, who at 32-years-old embodies an unusually young Macbeth that is simultaneously galvanizing and perturbing. He delivers his lines furiously and with little intonation, spitting each word with a precision that is decidedly unpoetic. Alternatively, Krystin Pellerin eradicates all preconceived notions of Lady Macbeth. She is a mask of feminine charm befitting Lady Macbeth’s maxim to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” This stark juxtaposition magnifies a sense of foreboding, particularly when she summons the forces of darkness to pervert the natural order, or talks cheerily about infanticide. Her deceptive vulnerability is emphasized by simple stage makeup, braided hair, and flowy white dress, all contributing to her youthful image. Seeing the Macbeths in their youthful prime heightened the catharsis – they were at the zenith of their lives, but they chose to plummet from the pinnacle of potential to ultimate ruination.

Digital Image, Front Row Center. Retrieved from Web.

Cimolino’s Macbeth focuses more on the external tumult of the decaying Scotland than on Macbeth’s internalized conflicts. The play begins in media res with a battle scene; a soldier is killed, his body scavenged and used by the three witches in their incantations. This establishes a society in pandemonium while simultaneously entrapping it within a supernatural dome. The thrust stage, designed by Julie Fox, is split into an upper and lower stage; the upper stage is barren and concrete, while the latter is blanketed with moss and rocks, intimating a forest bed. This design insinuates a world that never quite leaves the realm of the witches; they reappear on the lower stage intermittently throughout the drama and after Malcolm has been crowned the new king, perpetuating a sinister cycle – the play began with the witches, and it ends with them.

The creative team cohesively interweaved elements of pacing and lighting to emulate a feverishly-paced show, sequestering the supernatural elements into the first half, running until Act IV before intermission. The initial pacing follows the sequence of decisions made by Macbeth as they progressively become more rash and desperate. After the intermission, the pacing considerably slows so the gravity of the consequences resonates throughout the theatre. Much of the ominous tone was established by lighting director Michael Walton; the stage was shrouded in perpetual shadow, pierced intermittently with live torches. Under the cloak of flickering darkness, actions and motives could be concealed, and from a performance aspect, actors could shift positions, and props could be rearranged seamlessly. There is a conspicuous lack of music throughout the production, however, Macbeth’s hallucinations were reinforced with an anachronistic metallic sound – this effect will be omitted from my production, although I will also exclude music to place the focus entirely on the words.

It almost feels like cheating to take methodologies from one Shakespearean tragedy and transpose them into another. Nonetheless, Cimolino’s Macbeth inspired many decisions for Titus Andronicus, a frenetically-paced tragedy that exponentially intensifies until the crimson climax. I would pull particular inspiration from how Cimolino utilizes the intermission to sequester events in the plot, and to control pacing. Whereas Macbeth had a hectic first half, Titus Andronicus would have the contrary. The intermission will break the play as Chiron and Demetrius drag Lavinia off-stage, and the tragedy will recommence with Lavinia, standing bloodied and alone, in a shredded white dress under an unforgiving spotlight. This will be the pivotal scene that catalyzes the fallout, and I want to condense all of the tragic events in ceaseless succession in hopes of evoking an asphyxiating feeling within the audience mimetic to the war within Titus’ head.

As for other mechanics, the Stratford Theatre is an optimal venue; it is sizable enough that speculation will not be singularly focused, but not so large that it sacrifices intimacy. I will use the dual-level thrust stage to symbolize fluctuating power plays. The iconic Roman procession will initiate the performance, entering in mechanical synchronization to a steady drumbeat – there will be no music, to increase the sense of inevitability – as the procession fills the upper stage, leaving the Andronici, the royal family, and their war captives on the bottom stage.

Casting choice is quintessential to character. Anthony Hopkins performed a brilliant Titus, and he is my casting preference. Polly Walker, who has portrayed many resilient women in all their square-jawed, composed regality, will be Tamora. As for Aaron, although I hold Harry Lennix’ portrayal on an untouchable echelon, I would cast a younger Denzel Washington as this incorrigible villain. He is an incredibly versatile actor, notorious for delivering witticisms with the suave charisma and self-assuredness that would become Aaron the Moor. In contrast, Titus will deliver his lines with minimal intonation, to maintain internal obscurity. The original text will be left unaltered.

Titus Andronicus pivots on the ambiguous; to compound this, I will mirror Cimolino’s antithetic portrayal of Lady Macbeth, creating an off-kilter feeling within the audience. Aaron will always be in formal attire with neutral colours. Lavinia will be in white, if not primarily because blood is more vivid on white. Light will be utilized to expose harsh truths and to influence tone, unlike Macbeth, which was performed in shadows. As Titus’ morale and mental state disintegrates, the lighting will also dim until it becomes a constant, monochromatic grey, building to the final bloodshed at Titus’ banquet. There, the lights will be harsh and unrelenting, flashing intermittently – each character will be murdered in the dark, and the lights will return to expose the accumulation of scattered bodies. They will dim on the final speeches delivered by Lucius and Marcus, and the curtains will descend on them standing amidst the bloodshed, two bodies remaining in a scattered Rome.

Sorry for the annoying fixture behind me blocking out THE MACBETH POSTER

 

Mother Courage and Titus Andronicus Review Assignment

For this assignment I decided to see and review the University of Calgary School of Creative and Performing Arts production of Mother Courage and Her Children, directed by Adrian Young and used it as inspiration for my own imagined production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

Right when I walked into the theatre where Mother Courage was being shown, I was immediately awe struck by the beautiful and elaborate set. Not only did Young use the stage to set the setting of the play, he used the entire theatre, having sections of the audience area made to look like military bomb shelters. There was also a large, movable structure that was used to make various settings such as a bunker and a pub. On one side of the stage a band was set up, and on the either side of the stage large white sheets hung from the ceiling were used as screens that various projections were cast on. The beautiful set inspired me to imagine Titus to be set in a small intimate theatre, like the Pumphouse Theatre in Calgary, and have the entre theater decorated to look like an ancient Roman court, though I would not go so far as to have sections of the seating blocked off, rather I would just have the aisles and wall decorated.  This would give the effect of breaking down the traditional forth wall and immerging the audience right into the action.

The costumes in Mother Courage were also very effectively used, with the military costumes and period dress of the characters effectively adding to setting and building the world we were supposed to believe we were in (with the exception of one adidas jacket worn by one of the actors that threw me off a little bit). Though it had this effect, the wardrobe was simple enough to not take away from the performance. The props used were also effective, with each item present on the stage being used. This was good, because in my opinion if you are not going to use a prop, there is no reason to have it present. The same thought will go into my production. I want the costumes of the actors to accurate to the time period but at the same time practical for the actors to move around in. Makeup would, again, be simple and practical. The only place where I would want makeup to play a big role would be for when Lavinia is discovered after her rape. I want her to be in a white gown that is stained with bright red blood, and for blood to stain her face as well, to really drive home the image of the horrific assault on her.

Lighting will also play a significant role in setting the mood of each scene, with attention to colours and their effect in creating a specific mood. Young’s use of light in his production effectively did this, with bright yellow light used in lighter moments of the play and the use of various other colours to set moods, like the use of blue light in the scene where Mother Courage cradles and sings to her dead daughter, creating a sad and chilling backdrop. In my production, for example, I would give a hint of red in the lighting when Aaron reveals his plans to us, reinforcing the evil and cunning that lies in Shakespeare’s carefully articulated lines for him.

Casting wise there are a few actors that I have in mind to play the leading roles. For Titus Andronicus, Hugh Jackman, an actor who has not only the looks, but also the ability to pull off the complex character of Titus, as exemplified in his many acting credits, most notably, for me, his role in the epic musical Les Miserables.  For the role of Aaron, I have selected Idris Elba, a man who gives off an air of cunning and power. For the rest, Hugh Grant as Marcus, Idina Menzel as Tamora, Jared Padalecki as Lucius, and Dakota Fanning as Lavinia. For their performances I would instruct them to mostly let the beautiful writing of Shakespeare to shine. I would want them to speak the words as naturally as possible, without any embellished, over-dramatic inflections in their tone. For example, for Titus’s speech after Aaron cuts off his hand and right before the messenger delivers the heads of his two other sons, I would not want him to be overly dramatic and loud, I would want him to the deliver the speech solemnly and with muted passion. Each of the actor’s movements should also be calculated and have meaning, and each word of the text analysed and absorbed into their mind so that they could completely understand their characters and play them as honestly as possible. I would want them to make use of the entire space available to them, including delivering lines from the audience. Aaron, for example, could come in through the audience when comes to tell Titus of the deal he fabricated to give up his hand in exchange for the lives of his son, while making his asides to people sitting in the aisle rows of the audience.

In terms of text edits, there are not a lot of changes I would make. There are some speeches in the play that are pretty long that I would likely shorten, such as Marcus’s speech when he discovers Lavinia in woods after her rape. most of these changes would be mostly for time reasons, but I do believe that a lot of Shakespeare’s work is better left untouched and deserves to be presented in the most authentic way possible.

 

The Directorial Influences of Mother Courage and Her Children on Titus Andronicus

In a movie or T.V. production we might think of the saying, “lights, camera… action”. In live plays, it might go something like, “lights, venue, casting, performance decision, set design, costumes, text edits… action”. Okay not quite, but the effect of these decisions can influence the impact of a live play on the audience, which is what I will be discussing in my review of Mother Courage and Her Children as directed by Adrian Young at the University of Calgary.

Since this play was directed by Adrian Young as a project at the University of Calgary, the venue and cast used were essentially set for him. Thus, his skill in manipulating and managing the lights, set design, costumes and performance delivery dictated the tone of the performance. His choice in wartime clothing (soldier uniforms, peasant/farmer’s clothing) helped sustain the mood of the play which was a fight for survival during times of chaos and uncertainty. The stage itself was bare and grey which gave off a barren feeling. This decision to leave it bare conveyed the sense of seclusion and wandering which gave off a lonely feeling. Props could have been used to manipulate the stage setting such as covering the floor with a layer of dirt to immerse the audience into the play and make things seem more desolate, however, sometimes the best decisions are to ‘keep it simple (stupid)’. These decisions made by Adrian thus helped carry a hopeful yet grim tone for the entirety of the play.

His decisions on external effects (lighting, music, projections) could have been more focused to allow for a deeper connection with the audience. Lighting was primarily used for both a spotlight on characters during singing segments as well as for control over the transition of scenes (and acts) and give a sense of night and day. Although lighting was mainly used for transitioning throughout the play, the timing of dialogues and when the lights were focused could have been more in-sync. When the timing was off between the start of a character’s dialogue and the focus of the light, it disrupted the ability for the audience to re-immerse into the production world after being given a break between scenes. Especially when the previous scene ended on a hook. The patience to re-establish the connection with the audience would have helped convey a deeper sense of engagement and even empathy during major events. The use of controlled lighting was most effectively used to focus the audience’s attention on certain aspects of the play such as when a character died, helping to magnify the significance of the loss.

Although there was a musical element to the play, the singing segments of the play seemed like a neat/cheap way of providing exposition and the thoughts of characters’ minds. Musical takes did provide some comic relief in one sense since the entire play is situated during war, but it also took away from the sense of Mother Courage’s struggles and dampened the effect of the will to survive.

As far as performance decisions went, you could feel an aggressive stance being played by the actors portraying German soldiers which is unsurprising. However, the contrast between naïve street merchants (the children) and aggressive/cynical soldiers provided a sort of cliché balance for the caricatures presented. The set design was very typical: essentially structures on wheels for easy maneuverability. Given the size of the stage and the setting of the play, these specific structures provided ease of use which was adequate in telling the story.

 

Adrian’s directing choices impacted my decisions for a serious and empathetic take on staging Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare. The presentations of Titus in class delivered a level of sadistic humor, with the audience interaction and the close-up of Aaron during his side-talks. These portrayals of Titus and the overall mood of the plays missed the opportunity to connect with the audience. As discussed in the review of Mother Courage and Her Children, the use of lighting, the stage set, and performance decisions could dramatically alter the effect of a given dialogue and/or event in a scene.

The critical use of all elements in Titus Andronicus would be in the scene where Titus first sees Lavinia after being raped and mutilated. This leads to Titus going mad. The scene can be pivotal in engaging the audience on an emotional level by creating sympathy for Titus. This would be executed by establishing silence on-stage while dimming the stage lights and focusing a spotlight on Titus. A moment of this singular light could help focus the audience’s attention on Titus and his realization of the events. This would magnify his suffering, and help the audience connect with Titus and understand his pain; notably, during Titus’s comment of the fly and how it, as insignificant as it may seem to the rest of the world, still has its own family.

My choice of venue for a serious Titus Andronicus would be staged in Shakespeare’s Globe to pay homage to the creator of the play while providing an old-school ambience. The subject matter would benefit as well because the atmosphere immerses the audience back into the time of Titus.

The performance of the actors is the heartbeat of the play and they must be able to convey the message the director wants to make. In my take on Titus Andronicus, the critical point of delivery resides with the ability for actors to show kinship on-stage. A family dynamic emphasizing the closeness between each character must be portrayed. For example, during transition scenes, the actors must exit together and not stagger. This will show a sense of togetherness. As well, when delivering lines with interaction between characters, eye contact must be established and maintained. Also, a British accent has the characteristic of strengthening the authenticity of kinship.

The careful execution of these elements can help establish a better emotional connection of Titus with the audience and result in a deeper storyline.

Review, Gracie and Godot

Gracie,written by Joan MacLoed and directed by Vanessa Porteous is a  Canadian coming of age story with a twist. Gracie takes place in a polygamist community, and is told from the point of view of a young girl, Gracie. Gracie has a very unique feel, derived from the juxtaposition of Gracie’s idyllic worldview and the worldview of the audience. The juxtaposition between the way the play is presented and the unease the audience feels is a unique feature of Gracie. The multiple time jumps that the play has confuses the audience and conceals facts creating unease. For instance, Gracie’s marriage is first brought up after a time skip concealing her age, while later dialogue reveals that she is 15. The combination of an uncanny script, stage design, props, and careful use lighting enhance Gracie.

The stage in Gracie was particularly interesting, it was bare of any setting or props. The stage consisted of a series of platforms clustered together to form one large stage with a series of different levels, and a large flat and open stage in the front all painted a uniform gray. The lack of other visual elements on the stage forces the audience to focus on the skillful acting of Lili Beaudoin who played Gracie. Different levels signify different areas or locations, and add visual depth to the stage. The plain stage and lack of props facilitate the confused time sequence of the play and allow the play to take place in a series of different locations. The lack of props in the play made the importance of the single prop that was present, a doll, more visually important. Especially when comparing the colorful clothing it wore to the grey stage.

The lack of props and stage design necessitates careful use of lighting. The lighting in Gracie was used to set the mood, and scenes of the play. The plain grey stage allowed the lighting to be noticed, but muted the colors enough so they remained subtle. Throughout the play there was a use of color gradients to infer that different areas or times were shown, particularly in the backdrop.  It also set the mood, becoming yellower and brighter in happier moments and dimmer and bluer toned during somber ones. Total black out was only used to indicated large shifts in Gracie’s world.

  The staging of Gracie by Alberta Theaters will influence my direction of Waiting for Godot, written by Samuel Beckett. Both plays have similar themes and both use a plain set with few props to effectively tell the story.  Waiting for Godot, and Gracie both work to instill a feeling of unease in the audience.  In these plays faith was a main theme, not faith in God, but instead faith in a person, an event, or a life style. Waiting for Godot is a play about the faith that Vladimir and Estragon have that Godot will come. They have faith that if they wait long enough, and continue doing what they are doing, one day their life will get better for it, Like Gracie. The evolution of this faith is a key theme in both plays.

From Gracie I want to adapt the use of lighting in relation to faith, I want to mimic a correlation between the faith that the characters feel and the lighting. In the beginning of the play the lights will be bright, with yellow tones, signifying strong faith. However as the play continues the lighting will dim a little, starting to taking on more blue tones, as faith is questioned. In between acts the lights will not cut out completely, instead they will be very dim, enough to see Estragon and Vladimir exit the stage slowly, while looking back at the stage. In the second act the tones will be primarily blue but bright, and as they further lose faith in Godot they will dim. Finally, at the end the lights will dim again, barely illuminating the stage, just enough for the audience to see that Estragon and Vladimir stay on stage, before the curtain drops.

My production of Waiting for Godot will take place in a small theater with primarily ground seating, the stage should bulge out into the audience. Hopefully similar the Martha Cohen Theatre. The actors in front and center stage should be close to the audience, blurring the line between them. Particularly when Vladimir and Estragon pretend they are in a theater. The stage will be similar to the one used in Gracie, it will be stark, primarily grey and dark grey with a black tree in the center. The leave of the tree, when added will be dark brown and fading greens, symbolizing the strains put on Vladimir’s and Estragon’s faith. The back drop will be a light grey so that lighting can be reflected off of it. This will reinforce the idea of Gracie, and force the audience to focus on the actors, instead of the set. The overall visual of the play will be shabby, most characters will wear plain dull and worn clothing, mimicking the plain stage design. Helping them fade into the bleak stage, to further cause the audience to question why the characters are there, and why they continue to live in a bleak world instead of leaving it. Except Pozzo, who’s different circumstance and free movement from the stage will be highlighted with bright well-kept clothing, like the doll in Gracie.

Estragon will be played by Brent Spiner, and Vladimir will be played by Kevin McNally, who I think suit the roles due to their past acting and visual appearance.  Throughout the performance I want the faith and conversation between Estragon and Vladimir to become strained, and for the actors to act more dejected as the play continues, showing the degradation of faith. However at the end, I also want the actors, to recover a little with the line, “We’ll be saved.” Nearing the end of the play, displays the enduring faith that the characters have. I do not plan to make any edits to the script.

 

 

 

 

Are you satisfied with what you know || What are you waiting for?

Stewart Lemoine’s play The Exquisite Hour asks the audience, “are you satisfied by what you know?” In this romantic comedy the two characters Mr. Zachary Teale a department store supervisor for good receiving and Ms. Helen Darimont a secretary from the same department store embark on an adventure to explore knowledge and the meaning of time. Using the “H” encyclopedia as their guide, Mr. Teale and Ms. Darimont improvise scenes about St. Hubert to Hysteria, all in the span of an hour.

This play has been performed in various Canadian cities such as Toronto and Edmonton. The playwright Stewart Lemoine is a Canadian writer based out of Edmonton. The Exquisite Hour was first performed in 2002 at Teatro La Quindicina in Edmonton directed by Stewart Lemoine as well. Samantha MacDonald directs The Exquisite Hour in the Calgary production at the Lunchbox Theatre.

The play’s focus is on challenging a person’s knowledge and having the ability to communicate information in social settings. The casting decision for Mr. Teale and Ms. Darimont was very appropriate. Curt McKinstry played Zachary Teale, the actor was excellent at expressing Mr. Teale’s innocent, nostalgic, and awkward mannerisms. He is a middle-aged man who looked quite average he wore a button up shirt that was tucked into his dress pants. Barbara Gates Wilson played Helen Darimont; she was able to portray a cheerful and mysterious person who wanted to ‘sell’ Mr. Teale on knowledge. She was tall, lanky, and wore a fashionable blue dress.

The choice of venue is considered as a black box theatre, all the walls were black and the bleacher seating arrangement. Lunchbox Theatre uses “festival seating” which is also known as rush or general seating. The seats were quite close to the stage creating an intimate experience for the audience. The closeness was as if the audience was sharing the same backyard space, observing the events as they unfolded.

The stage was divided into thirds and the entirety of the play was set in the middle third. The set consisted of wooden houses from a backyard view; the style of the homes and decorations resembled a retro 70’s time era. This is significant to the play’s plot as it was set in a time where information was not as readily available like it is today. The set featured a white picket fence, a small patio table with two chairs, an “enhanced” lemonade mix, and a bench.

The Exquisite Hour uses the two actors to convey the message in the play. The use of music and the props could have been omitted if the director decided to focus on the idea behind the question “Are you satisfied with what you know?” to entice the audience. Mr. Teale and Ms. Darimont effectively acted out props and separate settings within the play by communicating with the audience about the encyclopedia content they were roleplaying. The actors vocalized when they were at “company picnics” or “going to a forest for a hunt”, they stated the setting props such as “picnic drinks” and “thick forest” for the audience. The interaction with the audience was not direct, yet the method of communication was effective.

The blossoming romance was indicated through the ambient lighting, specifically when Mr. Teale who was acting as St. Hubert recognized the very beautiful eyes of the flaming talking deer that he was about to shoot. As the actors joined each other on the bench to reflect on the “best hour of their lives”, they were accompanied by romantic classical music to create a mood.

This life changing experience paralleled St. Hubert’s journey to priesthood as a new man. The “H’ edition from Ms. Darimont’s sister’s collection was used as a tool to transform Mr. Teale into a socially confident intellectual. Mr. Teale impressively asks Ms. Darimont on a date for pork chops.

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If I were to direct Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett I would focus on the overarching idea regarding “Who is Godot?” It is implied that “Godot” has a possible religious connotation with regards to waiting for god or “Godot” is the idleness of life itself. The play is literally about doing nothing, leaving space for the audience to infer everything in between.

For Waiting for Godot would be most effectively performed in a small venue. I believe that if Waiting for Godot were to be performed in a large theatre the intricate interactions of the play would be lost. The play itself is not showy or extravagant so it would not fit a larger venue such as the Jubilee in Calgary. It could fit other stages like the smaller venues in the Epcor Centre, Lunchbox, Vertigo, or Rodeo Theatre.

Casting Waiting for Godot with well-known actors (of whom I cannot name) would entail hiring actors who would have a specific build for each of the characters. The mixed racial nature of the play needs to be specific to Estragon’s French and Vladimir’s Russian names while speaking in Irish intonations. Pozzo would be cast as a dumb and snobbish looking white aristocrat. Lucky would have to be cast with someone from a visible minority that was employed as slaves from the time period.

For the physical attributes I would imagine Vladimir and Estragon to both be quite wrinkly and flabby-looking. Pozzo would look like an angry and rude looking white male as the aristocratic asshole. Lucky would probably be a bucktooth African looking fellow to follow his role as a slave. The little boy will be pre-pubescent so his voice will be high pitched, somewhat indicating he could be a eunuch to parallel the religious context behind Godot.

The costume would reflect the social and physical status of the characters. Both Estragon and Vladimir would be in simple rag in neutral-earth tone colours. Pozzo would appear clownish with garish bright extravagant clothing to represent his social class, while Lucky would be in drab in preparation to be sold. Thinking hat that is elegant and of high class will be included as an intellectual timepiece, indicating that he is able to subvert his role with regards to his mental fortitude in comparison to Pozzo.

To enhance the audience’s understanding of the play, the set would remain unchanged and simplistic to draw attention to the interactions on the stage between the characters. The lighting would stay the same to retain the idea of waiting monotonously, passing time slowly for both the characters on stage and the audience. The set would be kept very sparse and minimal, keeping the barren country road with the mound, and a tree.

The entire premise of Waiting for Godot relies on the actors’ ability to role-play and imagine new scenarios on stage “filling in the gaps” of time. To emphasize the idea of “nothingness” attention will be drawn to the parts when the actors literally do nothing, physical ticks such as the boot and hat, and when the actors have long waiting pauses.

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Both The Exquisite Hour and Waiting for Godot explore the meaning of time and knowledge. The use of time can be interpreted in a variety of ways, yet there is always an opportunity to act out events of the past, which prompts questions regarding the present or future. As an audience, a director, or writer asking ourselves if we are “satisfied with what we know?” begs to fill time with knowledge or nothingness.

The Exquisite Hour & Everyman and Mankind

In the romantic comedy, The Exquisite Hour, director Samantha MacDonald explores the purpose of knowledge and time. The play consists of two characters who connect through creative exploration over the course of an hour. The vibrant Helen Darimont is performed by Babara Gates Wilson, while Curt Mckinstry portrays the soft-spoken Zachary Teal. Both roles were appropriately cast, as Mckinstry’s middle-aged appearance and average build are an ideal representation of a proverbial “ordinary man.” As well, Wilson’s tall and willowy appearance exude the alluring quality of Helen Darimont.

The production was held at the Lunchbox Theater, a successful lunchtime theater located in downtown Calgary. The venue’s small space was effective in fostering an immersive experience for viewers. By placing the audience at a close proximity to the stage, MacDonald creates an intimacy between the performers and the audience. This sense of closeness is reflective of the personal connection that develops between the protagonists themselves.

Terry Gunvordahl’s set design—which features a flower-boarded picket fence, a pitcher of lemonade, and an idyllic neighborhood backdrop—portrays a naturalistic recreation of a suburban summer. MacDonald uses this minimalist backdrop to highlight the performers use of space. With limited constraints on staging position, character development relied heavily on performance decisions. For instance, when Ms. Darimont and Zachary first become acquainted, they are positioned at a distance from one another. However, as the characters delve into each other’s lives they begin to physically draw closer—at a point in the play, Ms. Darimont even caresses Zachary’s cheek. MacDonald uses this deliberate shift in the performers’ spatial positions to indicate their blossoming relationship.

While most of the dramatic action takes place in Zachary’s backyard, the set design also consists of an endless row of adjacent homes. Moving outwards from the center stage, these neighboring homes progressively decrease in size. MacDonald uses this unique scenography to demonstrate shifts in the viewer’s perspective. For audience members ­­this scenic design facilitates an awareness of the bigger, boundary-less world that surrounds Zachary Teale and Helen Darimont’s lives. As well, the centralized position of Zachary’s backyard on stage, helps to guide the audiences’ attention towards the focal point of the action.

The interplay of color in the play also assists in establishing the audience’s focus. MacDonald uses dramatic color lighting, in particular, to dictate moments of joy—like the final scene where a romantic connection ensues between Zachary and Ms. Darimont. MacDonald parallels this emotional moment with a pink lighting and Sound Designer Aidan Lytton, underlines the fantasy with slow, classical music. The effect is a romanticized mood that encapsulates the wistful chemistry between the performers.

Curt Mckinstry, Barbara Gates Wilson PHOTO CREDIT: Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo

MacDonald’s use of color also extends to the play’s vibrant costumes. Zachary Teale is dressed in a yellow polo shirt, and Ms. Darimont in a pale blue dress. These colors are evocative of summer and help to develop the play’s lively atmosphere. As well, the backdrop of white houses creates a deliberate contrast to the performers’ costumes. This enables the performances to appear three-dimensional against the stage setting. MacDonald’s use of colorful elements also conveys the play’s themes of curiosity and imagination.

As part of my directorial decisions for Everyman and Mankind, my production will be held at the Westbeth Building in New York. This particular venue houses a small drama theater, similar in size to the Lunchbox theater. By executing my production in a smaller space, I hope to achieve the same intimate audience/actor relationship that was a key feature of The Exquisite Hour. Establishing this sense of closeness in my production will help convey the play’s theme of a universal human experience.

The New School for Drama, Westbeth Building, New York, NY, USA 

MacDonald’s casting for Zachary Teale is commendable as Curt Mckinstry portrays the ideal physicality of an archetypal “ordinary man”. Similarly, in Everyman and Mankind, the protagonist serves as a personification of all humans. To achieve the sense of universality that MacDonald evokes through her casting choice, an individual of average height and of middle-age will be cast for the role of Everyman. Taking this idea even further, the performer will wear a mask to create the effect of an androgynous identity—hence, gender will not play a role in my casting decision for the lead.

Another key element of MacDonald’s production was the performers thoughtful use of space. Similarly, in my own production, the spatial arrangement of actors will be used to convey relationships. When each of Everyman’s false friends are introduced, they will be positioned at a close proximity to him. But, as Everyman explains the circumstances of his journey, the false friends will gradually distance themselves—until Everyman is positioned on end of the stage, and the false friend on the other. This performative technique will help to convey the transience of Everyman’s earthly relationships.

My favorite element of MacDonald’s set design was the endless row of idyllic homes. To convey a similar “big picture” effect, my scenic design will consist of three stage divisions; Earth will be center stage, as this is where most of the dramatic action occurs, while Heaven and Hell will be found on stage right and left. This set design will foster an awareness of the spiritual realms that exist alongside the play’s physical world.

In my production of Everyman and Mankind, I will also incorporate MacDonald’s use of colorful visual elements. The colorful vibrancy of my production will serve as a momentary escape from the play’s sorrowful themes, just as it did in The Exquisite Hour. When each of the Everyman’s false friends are introduced, lighting effects will shift to a color that is representative of that character. Goods, for instance, will be associated with green lighting—a color that typically signifies greed. Everyman will be dressed in a white robe, which will be lit up with the colorful lighting. This technique will immerse the performer into the surrounding set as Everyman becomes a reflection of the world around him.

-Liz

 

Wait Until Dark & Influence on Medea

Simon Mallett’s production of Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark proves to be a gripping adaptation of the classic thriller. With a beautiful set design and outstanding cast, the Vertigo Theater provides the perfect intimate venue for this suspenseful production.

            Wait Until Dark is full of a vibrant cast of characters with their own motivations, reactions, and character development. Protagonists have moments of belligerence, self-pity, or spite while antagonists would show hesitance or reluctance in their actions. This, paired with the excellent casting decisions, conceived complex characters with convincing motivations and character depth.  Anna Cummer’s portrayal of Susan stands out among these performances. She brilliantly portrays the strong-willed Susan who is still coming to terms with her disability, deflecting insecurities with humor. Cummer brings this character to life from would-be-victim to heroine. It is refreshing to watch the journey of such a resourceful female protagonist.

The smaller venue of the Vertigo Theater perfectly suited the space of Susan’s Greenwich apartment. For a play that occurs entirely within one room, the smaller stage enhanced the intimate atmosphere of the apartment creating a closeness that would have been lost in a larger theater. The apartments thoughtful pieces of furniture and décor created a space that felt lived-in and believable. Coupled with clever lighting and sound effects, one could almost believe there were streets beyond the walls of the set.

With any thriller, establishing an appropriate atmosphere is vital in generating audience responses of suspense, dread, and fear. Wait Until Dark takes full advantage of its audience’s senses through a chilling score, but most importantly its lighting. Susan’s blindness, what seemingly begins as her weakness, becomes her greatest advantage in saving herself. Wait Until Dark goes beyond using lighting as a tool of effect to Susan using it as her greatest weapon. When the lights are on we are made witness to those who use Susan’s blindness against her. We watch her fumble and struggle as she is manipulated by those around her. However, when the lights are out this position of power is swapped from the antagonists and the audience to Susan as she uses her other heightened senses to her advantage. This brilliantly allows the audience to experience the vulnerability of the antagonists when the lights are off and a taste of Susan’s reality.

This adaptation of Wait Until Dark instantly makes me reminiscent of Medea, another female-driven thriller. Medea and Wait Until Dark are both plays in which many of the plot developments occur out of the audience’s sight. While they are both filled with action and violence we see very little of it. However, this makes them no less thrilling. Components of Wait Until Dark’s directorial decisions that most influence my own are it’s detail to set design and costume, and its use of music and lighting to create an immersive experience for the audience, just as Wait Until Dark did by shutting off all the lights during the final fight scene.

Beginning with cast, I would choose Mia Wasikowska as Medea. Though she is younger than I would imagine Medea being, upon watching Wasikowska’s performance in Stoker I am confident she could embody the alien and morally ambiguous nature of Medea in portraying her as the anti-hero/villain. For Jason I would cast Michael Fassbender. Based off his performance in Macbeth, I see Fassbender capable of portraying a hero becoming the villain, while still remaining somewhat sympathetic. Finally, upon seeing Ian Mckellen’s performance as King Lear I would cast him as Creon for his performance as a manipulated king/father figure.

The set of Medea, like Wait Until Dark, occurs entirely in one setting: in front of their house. Wait Until Dark was marked by its characters interaction with its surroundings. The set felt realistic and I would want to translate that to my adaptation of Medea. Medea and Jason being wealthy, I would imagine their courtyard being elaborately decorated and well kept. Stone walkways, colourful greenery, children’s toys, and benches would adorn the courtyard and a large and elaborate doorway marks the centre of their house. I would want the characters to interact with their surroundings; sitting on benches, touching greenery, etc.

Similarly, the costumes would be elaborate and appropriate for the character and their rank. Medea, marked by her foreign and alien nature, would wear elaborate robes the colour of purple, which is often associated with magic. I would see Jason wearing elaborate armor meant more for formal reasons rather than practicality, exhibiting his shift away from the heroic character of his past.

The events of Medea occur over one day. Because the play is set outside, I would want to show this passage of time through the lighting representing the sun. While the beginning of the play would occur during the daytime, I would want the illusion of a sunset to occur and eventually nighttime during the proceedings of the play. This decision is influenced by Wait Until Dark’s similar use of lighting.  Though it occurs entirely indoors, there was one small window that’s lighting would change from the light of the daytime to the glow of streetlamps at night. During the end of the play, the sun shone through the window indicating that it was sunrise.

Wait Until Dark used its background music more between scenes rather than during them, sometimes playing during moments of sudden danger or plot developments. This caused more of a focus on dialogue, something I would want in my adaptation of Medea. What I most appreciated of Wait Until Dark’s production was its use of off-screen sound effects. Character voices, sound effects, etc. created an effect of the set being much larger than it really was. Within my production, I would want to emulate this effect to have the audience really immerse themselves into the world of Medea.

Wait Until Dark provided a unique theatrical experience and brilliant adaptation to Knott’s classic. I found its use of sound effects, lighting, and set design especially influential in my directorial ideas of Medea in creating a truly immersive and believable experience for the audience.

The Power of Contrast: Lessons Learned from Vertigo Theatre’s Wait Until Dark

Frederick Knott’s Wait Until Dark is a play filled with dualities. Characters take on disguises to mask their true nature, an inner-city apartment serves both as a place of comfort and horror and the use of light and darkness on-stage are even imbedded directly into the plot. Vertigo Theatre’s production of the play embraces these contrasts, resulting in a tense and well-executed piece of theatre. The best qualities of the performance that I attended are a result of particular directorial decisions, which I will use as inspiration for my upcoming production of Waiting for Godot.

The casting of Michael Tan as the antagonist, Roat, is a counterintuitive choice. The actor is small in stature, especially when compared to his co-conspirator, Carlino, played by Paul Cowling. This increases the tension in their scenes together, where Roat exudes such menace that Carlino, a hardened ex-detective, is visibly intimidated by him. Tan uses sudden, dramatic changes to his speech and movement, combined with the character’s cryptic sense of humor, to portray a villain that is believably frightening. Physical size quickly becomes an afterthought with such a changeable and unpredictable character.

This has informed my own decisions on the casting and performance of the role of Pozzo. Much like Roat, he is a character who abruptly switches from one extreme to the other. In his first appearance, he treats Vladimir and Estragon with distant politeness, but also viciously abuses his slave, Lucky. By having a physically unimposing man play the role, these sudden outbursts will be far more shocking to the audience. The lines directed at Lucky will be performed with a tone of disgust in order to stand out from his otherwise pleasant demeanor. For this role, my ideal casting is Tom Waits. He exudes an eccentric charm, which suits the inherent strangeness of Pozzo’s appearances in the play. He is also able to portray both quiet menace and forceful rage with his voice, which will be essential in showing the character’s two distinct sides.

The strongest element of Vertigo’s production is the use of lighting and sound to build tension. In the opening scene, Carlino wanders through the apartment, which is only visible through exterior lighting shining through the window. He walks around in near silence, with only his footsteps and the occasional swell of ambient sound to punctuate the action. During the climax of the play, the lights are cut and much of the action takes place in complete darkness, forcing the audience to experience the scene through on-stage sound.  The commitment to minimalism in these scenes builds tension and works in contrast to the other, dialogue-heavy sections.

In my production, I would like to implement these techniques to a similar effect. By limiting the use of off-stage music and sound effects, the pauses and breaks that frequently appear in the dialogue will be further accentuated. This reflects themes in the play, as the absence of sound is a subtle way to highlight the concept of “nothingness” that is explored. The same principle will be applied to the lighting, which will stay mostly uniform throughout the performance. I would like to use warm, orange lighting to give the set a dream-like, surreal look that will also make the time of day ambiguous. I will make subtle changes near the end of each act in order to give a sense of unease as day finally passes into night. The overhead lighting will transition to a cold, blue color, and ambient wind sound will fade in. This will be repeated identically in both acts to add to the feeling of repetition that the play thrives on.

Another impressive aspect of this production of Wait Until Dark is its set. The play takes place in a post-World War II Greenwich Village apartment, and the attention to detail is immediately noticeable. It looks lived in, and the space is utilized to its full potential through interaction between it and the cast. This level of realism makes the fake dwelling feel alive and familiar. When the situation becomes physically dangerous for Susy, the protagonist, at the hands of Roat, lighting and sound techniques are used to transform the set from comfortable to foreboding. This contrast makes the climax far more unsettling for the audience. A home is a person’s refuge from the world, and to see it become a place of imprisonment and terror is disturbing. This feeling can only be evoked when the audience is able to suspend their disbelief with relative ease and inject themselves into the story.

My set for Waiting for Godot will be very different in its execution. Rather than a grounded, specific location, the play takes place in a barren, unnamed place. The only major set piece will be the iconic, seemingly dead tree, which will be located center stage. While the set will be sparse in nature, the focus on detail and audience investment present in Vertigo’s production can still be applied. My primary aim is to make the set appropriate for the abstract nature of the play. I would like the tree to be detailed and imposing, thick with intertwining branches. In the second act, the leaves that have appeared will be brightly colored in order to highlight the visual change that has occurred. When night falls, the tree will be backlit, casting shadows across the stage, menacing in comparison to its daytime appearance. A large stage with lots of unoccupied space will highlight the sparseness of the setting, making Theatre Calgary an ideal location in the city for the performance. All of these decisions will contribute to a surreal aesthetic that draws the audience into the unusual world that the play occupies.

While Wait Until Dark it is a fundamentally different type of play than Waiting for Godot, Vertigo Theatre’s interpretation has given me vital insight into how I can stage my own, effective production.

Kinky Boots Review & Influences on Titus Andronicus

On February 21st, I attended Harvey Fiersten’s Broadway production of Kinky Boots, at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. This musical truly captured the audience with its illustrious use of lighting, and song.

The first production of Kinky Boots was performed at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago in October of 2012. The organization and layout of this theater is extremely similar to that of the Jubilee, making the Jubilee an exceptional choice of venue for the performance of this production in Calgary. Both venues are relatively large and have multiple tiers of seating, making it so that any seat in the auditorium provides an adequate view of the stage. Furthermore, the acoustics of the Jubilee only enhance the sounds and songs of the musical. The Jubilee’s stage also complimented the set immensely. The majority of the plot of this production took place in a shoe factory, and the set for which was quite simple yet effective. I really enjoyed how the set was designed so that Mr. Price’s office was on a platform above the actual factory; it added a level of dimension to the set design while mimicking the authenticity of a true factory.

Harrison Ghee was spectacular in his role of Lola, a flamboyant drag queen who partners up with the protagonist and shoemaker, Charlie Price to make a line of footwear designed for drag queens. Ghee’s vocals were brilliant and, much like the character of Lola, very extra. His portrayal of Lola was extremely genuine. Alternatively, I found Ciarán McCarthy’s portrayal of the protagonist; Charlie Price, was only satisfactory. McCarthy’s acting was very good, however I found that his vocals were often overshadowed by the vocals of actors playing merely supporting roles. In addition, I didn’t really enjoy Rose Hemingway’s portrayal of Lauren. However, I don’t believe this had to do with casting as much as it had to do with certain performance decisions surrounding her character. I found her to be very ostentatious, and quite frankly annoying. Her vocals were very purposely pitchy at certain points throughout her performance, which I think was an attempt to enhance her character, but in my opinion, just took away from the entire performance.

The music for the entire show was written and produced by Cyndi Lauper, and it was truly incredible. I believe that the music truly enhanced this play; it allowed the audience to connect with the characters and storyline on a whole new level. The music in congruence with the lighting really helped establish the tone of all the scenes. The lighting itself was spectacular. More often than not, the lighting was very colourful and vibrant, evoking a feeling of joy to the audience. There were, however, select scenes that were dramatic and somber, and in those scenes the coloured lights were traded for more neutral hues.

The costumes in Kinky Boots were amazing and far surpassed my expectations. Especially those of the drag queens, they were so colourful and alluring, and left the audience in awe. The rest of the costumes were also quite good, and consisted of flat caps and button down shirts, all clothes expected of factory workers in 20th century England. All in all, the costumes helped establish the time period, as well as, the setting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this musical. The music in coherence with the lighting, the costumes and the set were truly perfection. The final scene of this production is a prime example of how all these elements came together to create something truly magical.

While watching Kinky Boots certain aspects of its execution and directorial decisions really stood out to me and influenced my decisions for directing Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Being a musical, song played a huge role in the Kinky Boots, however I do not believe that making Titus Andronicus into a musical would be effective. In fact, I think it would undermine the nature of the tragedy. I think music should be incorporated in a more subtle way though the use of background music to enhance the tone. In general, for Titus Andronicus the tone of the entire play is relatively dark, so I would use music that is equally as dismal. In terms of lighting, I would like to use light to evoke emotion to the same extent as Kinky Boots, however I want to stick to strictly neutral monochromatic light for the majority of the play. For certain scenes however, such as, Lavinia’s rape I will continue to use monochromatic light but incorporate the use of colour by replacing the neutral lights with flashing red ones in order to create a mood of terror.

I truly loved the costumes in Kinky Boots for their complexity and vibrancy and I thought they were one of the highlights of the production. Nonetheless, they all had an underlying implication of promiscuity, which for some characters, such as Tamora and Aaron is perfectly fitting, but for others, such as Lavinia, is contradictory to her characterization. While it would be interesting to take inspiration from Kinky Boots and dress Lavinia in a similar costume to that of Lola; with bright colours and glitter, I think it would be far more effective to dress her modestly and in all white to convey her innocence. On the other hand, I would dress Tamora and Aaron in colours, such as red and black, because both have strong elements of sexuality, as well as, darkness associated with their characters. When trying to decide on the cast for my production of Titus Andronicus there was no question as to who would play Tamora. I believe Angelina Jolie would make the perfect choice; she embodies the right amount of sensuality, as well as, wickedness, which is evident in her brilliant role as Maleficent, in Robert Stromberg’s film Maleficent.

Finally, much like the set for Kinky Boots, my set for Titus Andronicus will be quite minimalistic and simple. I would add the same level of depth to my design by adding tiers to certain scenes. For example, incorporating a platform into the first scene on which Saturninus and Bassianus would stand to highlight their power and ranking in society. As for the venue, I do believe that the Jubilee would make a good choice. Because I took inspiration from elements of the set of Kinky Boots to create my own set, I believe that the Jubilee would complement my set as nicely as it did the set of Kinky Boots, due to its size.

-Sonja Gigovic