Behind the Curtain: Bonnie & Clyde

QDF: Congratulations on Bonnie & Clyde being the first show of Contact Theatre! What made you decide this particular show?

We knew we wanted to do a show that pushed the envelope in terms of themes and content beyond work we’d done with other companies before. Bonnie & Clyde was one of those shows we’d both trained ourselves to say “well no one is ever going to do it.” This is a show with guns, sex, and set in a very specific historical era. All of which are defining elements of a challenging show. It is also structurally very different from most shows which added to the challenge and intrigue. Of course, it is the controversial love story that drives the plot, and the incredible music by Wildhorn and Black that ultimately led us to choose this specific show as our inaugural production. Love, both romantic and for our family, that leads us to make questionable choices and sacrifices is something we think most people can relate to.

The story and setting are also so relevant to our current political climate where frustration and distrust between people and the government has led to criminals at times being seen as the heros (ie: the current news about Julian Assange). We also want to try bring musicals that have either never or rarely been done to the English theatre community of Montreal. And not to forget the elephant in the room, as a new theatre company we were very cognizant of the fact that these recognizable names would be helpful in spreading the word. Essentially this show provided just the right amount of challenge, intrigue and relatability for our first production.

QDF: Can you describe the experience of developing your own company? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to start their own?

Developing a theatre company is definitely one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of our lives. It wasn’t something we decided to do overnight and frankly something neither of us expected to actually go through with. At the end of the day we both found ourselves wanting to create certain art, but not having an outlet to do it in. We also wanted to grow and challenge ourselves to become better creators, and discover other creators who may have not found their outlet either. And so one really early morning sitting on the cold streets of New York in the rush line to see Come From Away, we took out our notebooks and put down our vision on paper and decided that we could actually make it come to life.

It has been moving to receive such an outpouring of support from our community. It has also been freeing to get to redefine our own structures and systems for rehearsals, shows and the company as whole. Because we both had a lot of experience on the stage as well, one of our main goals is to ensure the actors’ feel like they are part of the creation process as well and that we develop a strong basis of trust and mutual understanding that we are all working towards the same goal. Creating art through musical theatre is a huge challenge, and especially with the shows we are hoping to put on. There are few frills and grandeur, just raw and hard-to-face stories that deserve being told. And we hope to keep telling them.

The world is better with more creators. So, our advice to people who are thinking of going out there and creating is – do it. It’s not easy, it’s not always as fun as you were hoping, you may have to “start” a few times over, but what is creation without risk. This theatre community is an AMAZING source of knowledge that you should take advantage of. There’s workshops, blogs, networking events, Facebook groups, associations, and a bunch of creators who are happy to help guide you and answer any questions you have. Use the community, you are not alone.

Joel Bernstein and Camille Cormier Morasse portray outlaws Bonnie & Clyde.
Photo by Joshua Faier

QDF: Bonnie & Clyde is a classic and beloved show for many people. Do you feel any pressure or expectations to stay close to the original?

There is always a duty to stay true to the script and the writers’ intentions when you take on a show. We also love the original production and definitely took inspiration from it. However, our director and choreographer Debora Friedmann always thinks that when you take on a show that is well loved and known, it is vital to create a new take on the show. If you’re not taking some risks and incorporating new ideas why make the work at all?

As a dancer with a background in street dance Friedmann definitely took on the timelessness of the story with incorporating more contemporary movement, and much more movement in general to the show that is traditionally done with barely any dance. While the original production played a great deal with the concept of stillness and stagnance to counter the fast moving music and lifestyle of our leads, Friedmann chose to really push this dichotomy between the sense of being bound and the desire for freedom. This was done not only with increased use of the actors body in collaboration with a simple set that is used and reused, closing in slowly on our cast throughout the show and being interacted with in various different ways. We also chose to bring down the cast size as much as possible, double casting and cross casting our actors in order to create a more intimate process. This casting was also done carefully and intentionally as a means of highlighting the concepts of human interconnectedness and the challenging of gender norms that made Bonnie & Clyde so infamous in the first place.

Aside from artistic choices, taking a production that is typically done in a high tech proscenium theatre and bringing it into the intimate black box space of the MainLine obviously requires a great deal of adjustment. One of the biggest challenges was working in a radically different space then what the show was written for. Playing to audiences on all sides, negotiating with low ceilings and no space for hanging or flying in set definitely forced us into finding creative solutions and new ways of blocking the work so that it would fit in our space. While our production may not meet the expectations of people who’ve seen it in person, we hope they find themselves pleasantly surprised when confronted with our version of the show.

You can find more information and tickets for Contact Theatre’s Bonnie & Clyde running at MainLine Theatre from April 25-28 here.

Behind the Curtain: How Black Mothers Say I Love You

We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Andrea Davis who is currently starring in How Black Mothers Say I Love You. The production is midway through their run at Centaur Theatre so we had a check-in, spoke about the music in the show and dipped our toes into the waters of motherhood.

Andrea Davis in How Black Mothers Say I Love You. Photo by: Kym Dominique Ferguson

Quebec Drama Federation: You’re about midway through the production. Soon it’ll be travelling to premiere in Brampton at the Rose Theatre! How has it been going for you and the team so far?

Andrea Davis: Well, it’s been a lot of hard work getting here, but now that we’re midway through our run, the show has become even more of what it is supposed to be.  This happens with most shows: the cast gets to the point where the words and actions are just “in you”, you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do or say next so much.  All of us are finding great new ways to interact on stage and finding interesting ways to flesh out our characters. Black Theatre Workshop’s Artistic Director Quincy Armorer dropped by the show last night. He hasn’t seen it since opening and he was very ebullient about how much the show has gelled.  The pacing of How Black Mothers Say I Love You makes it a real pleasure to perform, especially now that we can all play with it a bit more. So we’re all looking forward to moving the show to the Rose Theatre in Brampton. None of us have ever performed there before, so that makes it even more exciting.  I’ve heard that it’s an excellent theatre and that the audiences are very generous. We’re all looking forward to the adventure! The show is in a place now where I believe we could take it anywhere and it would still be great!

QDF: Music plays a central role in the production. Was there any music or songs that influenced your work in the performance?

AD: I’m a big music fan, and I listen to all different types of music:  rap, R&B, reggae, rock, jazz, classical, world beat, EDM, opera, klezmer, you name it.  I’m one of those people who believes that everything you’ve experienced is what makes you who you are today.  And I kind of feel that way about the music in this play. Like my musical preferences, the music in How Black Mothers Say I Love You is very eclectic, which is something I really love about it.  I feel that a lot of the ways in which people listen to music now (for example streaming) forces you to listen to one genre at a time. Unless you spend a lot of time making playlists from different sources, you get channelled into choosing one type of music and that’s all you get. But I think, like me, a lot of people are interested in and listen to lots of different types of music.  This play reflects that perfectly and with subtlety, thanks to our composer Gavin Bradley and our musical director Alejandra Nunez. You’ll hear touches of many different styles of music throughout the play. The fact that it changes from one genre to another is never jarring or surprising; it simply adds more complexity to the piece, supports the action of the play and gives a more worldly aspect to the settings (sometimes otherworldly too!).

Andrea Davis in How Black Mothers Say I Love You. Photo by: Kym Dominique Ferguson

QDF: The narrative of mother-daughter dynamics and reconciliation is one we don’t see enough in theatre. How has the process been in delving into the subject matter of motherhood?

AD: It’s so true, there aren’t that many plays that delve into motherhood very deeply.  Motherhood is always a big subject, but in this play it reaches astronomical proportions.  Daphne’s absence, the generation gap, the religious divide, issues surrounding sexuality…it’s a real can of worms.  During rehearsal we delved very deeply into the characters’ thoughts, interactions, histories and motivations and we talked a lot about our own experiences.  I believe that going through all of that so deeply brought all of us on the team closer together. There is so much to explore there, and believe me, we explored it, and yet I find I’m still finding new things as the run progresses. 

We had our first “Talkback” (where the audience can stay to ask questions or make comments after the show) on Sunday. It was incredible. Not only did 90% of the audience stay, the questions and comments were so compelling, thoughtful, intelligent and insightful.  Quite frankly, it was the best talkback I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve done quite a few in my day! I was blown away. To me, it’s a testament to the fact that people are really connecting with this story and the characters in it, and that audiences definitely need more of this kind of work out there.  Our goal with this production is to help people heal, and I could see clearly from all of the comments and questions that we received that we are doing that. Unfortunately, Daphne’s story is not unique. There are many families out there who have experienced the trauma of separation—women who have had to leave their children behind in order to make a better life, who sacrificed everything to create better opportunities for their children. How Black Mothers Say I Love You gives audiences a chance to see the strengths, vulnerabilities and misunderstandings of the family members at a distance, and that distance gives them the opportunity to see the situation in a new light.  I believe that with understanding comes compassion, and with compassion comes healing, and that is what we all hope to bring to audiences with this play.

ABOUT Andrea Davis

Andrea is proud and elated to be working with Black Theatre Workshop on this magnificent play. Her career has taken her across the country and around the world. Her theatre credits include Intimate Apparel (Grand Theatre), Romeo & Juliet (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre), Refuge (Tarragon Theatre) The Ventriloquist (Factory Theatre) Recent Experiences (International Tour) and Hamlet (CanStage). Film & TV credits include Orphan Black (Temple Street) Mary Kills People, Rookie Blue, The Firm (E-One) Saving Hope (NBC-TV) Da Kink In My Hair (Global TV) and the independent short film Screenthru (Bravofact). Andrea would like to express her deep gratitude to her mother, Monica, for continually performing fearless acts of love for our family.

Cast of How Black Mothers Say I Love You. Photo by: Kym Dominique Ferguson

How Black Mothers Say I Love You is currently running at Centaur Theatre until March 16, 2019. Thank-you to Andrea for taking the time to speak to us about the production! You can also check out the 3PM matinee after our Serving Up Knowledge: Process of Care event happening at Centaur this Sunday March 10 @ 1PM!

Behind the Curtain: Tales from the Wind with Carolina Chmielewski

We spoke with Carolina Chmielewski about Tales from the Wind. Carolina is the performer behind the upcoming production happening at Centaur Theatre as a part of their TD Saturday Morning Children’s Series on February 9, 2019. Carolina also works at Centaur so we were thrilled to talk to her about her experience in theatre!

Quebec Drama Federation: Tales from the Wind is inspired by Brecht’s epic theatre and Peter Brook. Can you tell us a bit about how you bring those qualities to theatre for young people and their families?

Carolina Chmielewski: This has been Cia. Paideia’s research for many years. We try to provoke and invite critical thinking and reflection. This need comes from an urgency to connect theatre and society, what is crucial in theatre for young people. We are inspired by Brecht and Brook to create work in which children can wonder if things should be as they are or if they could be transformed. In terms of the language of theatre, we work on the ​​empty space idea, which is the space of all possibilities. We break with realism and play with theatrical language, allowing the viewer to imagine part of what is shown. We try to include what did not happen in what is shown to indicate that the story could have been different. We use breaks of action, time, space, and character. We try to show the different points of view within the same story. The goal is to create layers, in which different ages will understand and relate to the stories in different ways.

QDF: A theme of intergenerational storytelling and carrying wisdom is present in the production. As the only performer onstage, can you tell us about your technique in performing multiple characters?

CC: I think the first step is to think about why I want to tell these stories and try to understand the different points of view of each character – what are their motivations, issues and contradictions. Then, I create some striking features: it could be with my body,  gestures, voices, posture, rhythm or with the gaze. I try to keep a flowing conversation between characters and to be precise when I change between them. I aim to do so without carrying characteristics over from one to the other. The idea is not to create a complete character necessarily, but rather establish some signs for the public to understand the story.

QDF: Can you tell us about your creative process performing for children audiences?

CC: For me, this was one of the richest artistic processes I’ve ever participated. The play was created in two versions in parallel: one with three actors and one musician and the other with each actor telling a story alone. The idea is linked to Brecht’s process in which the actors study the scene redoing it with different actors each time. It is a process in which I see my colleague acting and then I select what I want to absorb and what I want to add, so it was a very collective creative process. In addition, we created the play together with a group of students from a public school with which we have a 20-years partnership. The children came to rehearsals weekly to watch and make comments and critiques: the play was built from that exchange. During the process the children also discovered in practice the process of creating and staging a theatrical play.

 

 

You can see Tales from the Wind at Centaur Theatre TD Saturday Morning Children Series on February 9, 2019. Tickets are on sale here. Coming up at Centaur: Crabapple Trolls by Comedy Clownesque (Feb 23); FELT by choreographer Bill Coleman (March 9); and PB & Jam by Les CréActifs (March 16)

About Centaur’s Children’s Series: The TD Saturday Morning Children’s Series has been programmed for over 40 years, and Centaur is please to offer a variety of community-minded programming for young children and their families.

Carolina Chmielewski is an actress, theatre teacher and producer. Carolina was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she worked for five years at Cia. Paideia de Teatro, a troupe that has an extensive artistic and community oriented work whose main audience is children and young people. She has performed in eight of the company’s productions, being the main role in the play that premiered in Germany in a 5 year partnership with Grips Theatre in Berlin and premiered in Germany. She continues her research on epic theatre language of Bertolt Brecht and Peter Brook. As a teacher, she has worked with various age group, from children to youth people, but also with kindergarten and elementary school teachers. She worked for five years in the production of the Paideia International Theatre Festival for Children and Youth, especially in reception and support to international groups, including the Le Carrousel from Montreal. Carolina lived for one year in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she joined the group TeArt Amateur Theatre Group. Additionally, she worked as a volunteer for the Odin Theatre group and for the April Festival for children and young people. Since October 2017 she has lived in Montreal and currently works as Assistant Box Office Manager at the Centaur Theatre. She participated in workshops with Gervais Gaudreault and Micheline Chevrier and as a volunteer at the Festival Les Coups de Théâtre. In February 2019, Carolina will present a solo work by Cia. Paideia at the Centaur Theatre and will begin her work as assistant director in the play Fragments d’Ana, directed by Ligia Borges Carbonneau.

Behind the Curtain: Elsewhere

 

QDF: Can you talk about how identity as it relates to the characters in crisis?

Joy Ross-Jones: As a Venezuelan-Canadian, I’ve always felt as split sense of cultural identity. I left Venezuela at 17 and have made my life here in Montreal. The move strengthened my understanding of myself as a Canadian, but strangely, also brought me closer to my Latin American roots. Being away from Venezuela during this phenomenally difficult time in the country’s history has made me question where I fit into it. How can I lend a hand and ‘march’?

Each of the Elsewhere characters represents an archetype. The Gringa (North American), Policia (cop), Reina de Belleza (beauty queen), Guerrero (warrior/protester), Indigente (homeless man), and Abuela (grandmother), all negotiate their identities in light of the new stakes they are forced to live from day to day. Each of them emerged out of me during improvisation sessions. As the crisis in Venezuela becomes increasingly unbearable, each character has been forced to respond and either adapt, or not. Feeling each character shift within me has been fascinating; some hold on with tooth and nail to life before, and others, negotiate their sense of self and hustle to facilitate their survival in this country in decline. The two year creation process of Elsewhere, culminating in the upcoming production by Odd Stumble and Imago Theatre, has been a heart-wrenching, overwhelming, and totally artistically enriching journey.

QDF: There is also a great deal of personal connections to real life-identity. How do you leave personal life on stage so the two don’t bleed together?

JRJ: It’s really hard. I often feel overwhelmed by emotion, and increasingly so as we approach opening night. As the days count down to the production, the political climate in Venezuela becomes more complex and dire than I ever thought it could. I think of my family in Venezuela often, and hope with all my might that they stay safe. Elsewhere is for them.  

Photo
credit: Ronaldo Schemidt, Venezuela Crisis,
World Press Photo of the Year, 2018

QDF: As you’ve mentioned, location and the crisis in Venezuela is critical when it comes to the story, how does the title Elsewhere relate?

Cristina Cugliandro: The title speaks to our thinking that when something is happening in another part of the world it does not concern us or that we are helpless. It also takes into consideration the fact that many have to leave their homes to find a place elsewhere that is safe and the consequences of that displacement.

QDF: Elsewhere urges audiences in Canada to consider the crisis in Venezuela. What do you hope audience members take away from the production?

CC: As Canadians, we can feel comfortable in our country and believe that the many crisis we hear about would never happen on our turf. But, throughout history, we have witnessed many well off countries dissolve under circumstances due to a certain  government’s policies, uneducated political decisions, and mismanagement of the economy. As a country whose trading often revolves around our natural resource of the tar sands, we must be careful and weary of the economic choices we make in order to avoid a situation such as we are seeing in Venezuela. We must learn from history instead of repeating it.

Elsewhere can be seen at Centaur Theatre from January 24-27, 2019 at Centaur Theatre. Tickets are available here!
Thank you to Joy Ross-Jones (co-creator) and Cristina Cugliandro (Artistic Director of Odd Stumble) who are also Associate Artists at Imago Theatre for taking the time to speak with us about Elsewhere.

Behind the Curtain: The Tashme Project: The Living Archives

QDF spoke with the co-creators Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning of The Tashme Project: The Living Archives.  The responses are in one voice as creators.

QDF: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience as co- creators of the project? How was the experience working together on such an intimate work?

As half-Japanese Canadian theatre creators, we bonded very quickly as it is extremely rare to meet other Japanese Canadians in the world, let alone in this field. Being creators, we both had always yearned to delve into our past, and the legacy of the Japanese Canadian internment, yet alone, we felt equally powerless to start.  As a rule, stories of the internment are not discussed in Japanese Canadian families and growing up in the face of this silence impacted us both at a very deep level. We needed each other in the end, to begin the process of discovery and transformation. We shouldered each other through the initial outreach to our elders, through the interview process that has forever changed our relationship to them, and finally through the years-long and nerve wracking creation process that has led to this point.

QDF: As performers of documentary theatre, can you tell us what it’s like to perform these people you had interviewed?

It is an immense privilege, particularly because of how connected we feel to our community and our elders through this process. Speaking these stories and embodying our interviewees vocally, physically and spiritually, is a form of communion. We feel that we carry, cradle and champion these stories and in doing so we hope to ignite a pride of identity for all generations of the Japanese Canadian community. We seek to validate the long silent voices of our elders, and by sharing the vitality inherent in their testimonies, we not only want to illuminate our history for younger generation Japanese Canadians, we want to inspire in them a desire to reach out to their own elders and to talk to each other about what it means to be Japanese Canadian.

QDF: You’ve described the reluctance of subjects and how they developed into lengthy sessions. Have all of the subjects seen the finished work? What has the response been like?

It is both wonderful and terrifying to perform/impersonate our interviewees, but of course we always extend invitations out to them when we are performing in their part of the country. Over the years we have managed to show a good three quarters of our interviewees the work, and while their response is not always vocalized, we can tell they have been touched by the work and this very personal process. The thing is, we always perform their stories from a place of reverence and honour, and when they are in the audience, these emotions have a very specific place to land. It is wonderful to come full circle in these moments, and to direct the work back onto its sources.

QDF: As per the title, the project is living and seems to be evolving. What do you see for its future?

We are so lucky to be able to carry these stories forward for the rest of our lives; they will always serve as touchstones to the past, to our community, and to an inarticulate sense of faith.  Specifically, because it is such a pleasure to perform these stories, we do not want to stop. For the next iteration of this project, we want to break out of theatre into new media: graphic novels, podcast and documentary.  We have no firm plans; we just know we don’t want to stop!

 

You can see The Tashme Project: The Living Archives at Centaur Theatre from November 15-24. You can get your tickets here.

Thank you Matt and Julie for taking the time to speak with us!

The Tashme Project Creative team

Mike Payette, Director

Rebecca Harper, Movement Dramaturg

James Lavoie, Set & Costume Designer

Laurence Mongeau, Assistant Set & Costume Designer

David Perreault Ninacs, Lighting Designer

George Allister & Patrick Andrew Boivin, Video Designers

Patrick Andrew Boivin, Sound Designer

Isabel Quintero Faia, Stage Manager

Tristynn Duheme, Technical Director

Merissa Tordjman, Production Consultant

Behind the Curtain: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Quebec Drama Federation with Andrew Morissey (Hedwig), Noelle Hannibal (Producer and Yitzhak), Elisabeth Nyveen (Stage Manager) and Nadia Verrucci (director)

QDF: Can you tell us about your relationship(s) to the original film and broadway production Hedwig and the Angry Inch? How would you say In the Wings’ Hedwig is different to past productions?

Andrew Morisphy: I first stumbled upon the movie in high school having no idea what it was and fell in love with it. I realized how big of a cult-classic it is after. I saw it on Broadway a couple of years after with Michael C. Hall and reinforced my love for the show.

Noelle Hannibal: I first saw the show open in Hollywood in 1998. I went every single weekend for the six-month run, I loved it so much. Ian our Music Director and Nadia our Director were at my house and I asked if they had heard of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and they soon fell in love with it too.

Elizabeth Nyveen: My mom was super into the Hedwig soundtrack and introduced it to me when I was younger. I knew a few songs and for a long time I had no idea they were from Hedwig. She sat me down and we watched it together. I’ve never seen a live-production of it, so working on it right now is a nice introduction to it.

NH: I like that the broadway show is big and splashy, and I feel like a club like Mado is bringing it back in some ways. It’s such a beautiful show, and is so timely in the themes. Who doesn’t want to find love? Who hasn’t had their heart broken?

AM: I agree. Something that Nadia is making sure we’re doing is that it’s paired back and from a realistic view. It’s very different from the Broadway show that I saw where there was a lot of spectacle to it. I think it’s special to do it in such an intimate space.

Nadia Verucci: I’ve been approached by so many people who love the show and who’ve ever only seen the movie and never a live-performance. I’m so excited for those people to come and see this show because it is so different from the film.

NH: We had that in the audition process also. The majority of those we auditioned had only ever seen the film.

QDF: Noelle had touched on the theme of love and heartbreak. Are there any other themes in Hedwig you can speak to?

EN: It’s famously a queer show. Not just with sexuality but with gender. For my identity personally, I think it’s strong in presenting both of those. I find it really relevant today especially where we’re going through a gender renaissance where trans people have been making strides with obstacles before them. Doing Hedwig in this political and social climate is really important to see.

QDF: Can you tell us a bit about your direction for this production Nadia?

NV: I’m really mean.

NH: She’s not mean, she’s tough. What I can say is that Nadia’s toughness has made me a better actor in my approaches and how I work, and why I always ask to work with her. Her vision is what makes this show special.

NV: It always makes me laugh when people say ‘vision’. When I’m in rehearsal I usually see something and know where to go rather than walking in knowing exactly what I want to do, I find that limiting.

NH: For Andrew and I, right off the bat, we connected and I think that’s important for this show. Where the band is onstage.

AM: There’s also a sense of play where Nadia lets us try a scene so many different ways  that makes us feel that we are a large part of the process and ownership.

QDF: Oh, the band is on stage?

NV: They are, and they participate!

NH: It’s the whole connection and a piece to what makes a shiny glittery puzzle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can see Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Cabaret Mado, 1115 St Catherine St E, Montreal, QC H2L 2G2, Tickets on sale NOW! Visit the website here.

Book by John Cameron Mitchell Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask

Directed by Nadia Verrucci

Musical Direction by Ian Baird

Production Support Jayne Heitmeyer

 

VIP $35 (plus service fee) Includes Reserved, front row Seating and a non alcoholic beverage

General Admission $25 (plus service fee)

Students and Seniors $20 (plus service fee)

CAEA/ACTRA/UdA/QDF $20 (plus service fee)

 

*Hedwig and the Angry Inch co-creator, composer and lyricist STEPHEN TRASK will be present on Opening Night for a talk back performance, November 14!

**Thursday, November 15 performance will be a special charity night. $5 from every ticket sold with go directly to Project 10. In addition, proceeds from raffle ticket sales from ALL performances will also go directly to Project 10.

Behind the Curtain: Other People’s Children

Diana UribeSet and Costume Design
Chantal Labonté, Lighting Designer

Quebec Drama Federation: Can you talk a little bit about choosing to go with a minimalist aesthetic for the design in this production?

Diana Uribe: It’s a story that involves three different people whose lives are invested in this house. The story is not about the house as much as it is about them. The big inspiration was for the set to be a frame for them. The set had to be as clean and as pure as possible with the design. With Hannah, the story is so amazing that you don’t have a lot of time to worry about where they are.

      On the costume side it was a little more complex. It’s a period of three months and transition where things happen and the characters are each involved in their own way. The set doesn’t change but the costumes do throughout the show.

Chantal Labonté: With the lighting it needed to be minimalistic as well to keep the characters as the focus. Because everything was so simplistic I didn’t want to impose ambiances during the scene. Even with colour, we’re playing with cools and warms without imposing a dramatic effect on the scene. The time where we do see a little more movement is when we show the passage of time. With music, we go into this other kind of atmosphere without saying anything- it’s very neutral.

Diana Uribe (Set and Costume Design)

 

QDF: We just walked through the set- it all looks and feels so expensive. Even with so few physical objects onstage, the set exudes a certain luxury.

DU: The story is of privileged people who have someone come to raise their child. On the other end of the spectrum, the woman who came from a third world country to raise another family’s kids. We needed to show that in their place. We needed to see the privilege from this family. They have money and we need to see it. Those elements are important in design in relation to the story. With minimalism, it works well to be contemporary and modern.

CL: This is the most blank canvas I’ve ever worked with, and in a way it stays blank. It’s the characters and the story that contrasts the blankness.

DU: I almost wanted this set to be like a sculpture in the middle of the stage. We started to put together our notes and both mine and Chantal’s were the exact same.

 

QDF: The architecture of the set you’ve designed allows for multiple rooms to be visible for the audience.

CL: It kind of looks like one full world.

DU: We have two levels for two bedrooms for the characters. They’re both merged together from opposite worlds and backgrounds together somehow onstage.

CL: They interact with each other.


QDF: Where did you draw references from for this production?

DU: Architecture. I love Scarpa’s architecture. It’s so clean and so modern. His work will still be contemporary a hundred years from now. I also think the internet is great, especially Pinterest. Before it would’ve been a library but now it’s all in my computer for image references.

CL: For me it’s paintings. When there’s just simply two colours, that hits me and will become my colour pallet.

Chantal Labonté (Lighting Design)

QDF: Do either of you have any advice you would give to up and coming designers or folks looking to break into designing?

DU: Open your eyes. If you walk on the street, you’re on the metro, you’ll be inspired. Also, if you know the story, stay true to it. Yes, we would all like to put our signature on our work, but you need to check your ego. Work for the story and keep your ego down.

CL: On my end, I would say play with the objects and set that is given to you. Also explore! If you have an object work the different angles and colours. I would also say collaborate and listen to your fellow designers to make sure you understand their vision but you also have your own. Stay open,  there is no one right answer.

 

 

QDF: That kind of goes with ego too.

CL: Listen and work with your team.
DU: I can go in my own studio and do my own work, but I need to keep a dialogue going.

 

#weareQCtheatre

Imago Theatre presents Other People’s Children by Hannah Moscovitch from October 25-November 4 at Centaur Theatre. 

CALL THE CENTAUR BOX OFFICE AT 514-288-3161 TO RESERVE TICKETS
Or visit www.imagotheatre.ca or on Facebook here.

Imago Theatre is a catalyst for conversation, an advocate for equal representation, and a hub for stories about unstoppable women. 

Interview conducted October 24, 2018.

Behind the Curtain: The Domestic Crusaders

This week, QDF sat down with The Domestic Crusaders director, Deborah Forde. We had a wonderful time talking with QDF’s past Managing Director about identity, her practice as a director and the power of dark comedy.

Quebec Drama Federation: The Domestic Crusaders premiered on September 28! How has it been going?

Deborah Forde: I guess for me as a director I’m still in a place with the actors that I’m not really out in the audience yet. It was well received by the people we were aiming for it to be well received by. It’s a community that hasn’t seen themselves onstage. My favourite moment of the night was when someone from the community came to me and said, ‘Deb, it was like you were in my living room!’ That was the pinnacle of my night. The story is set in somebody’s living room, kitchen and two bedrooms.  We wanted people to see their reflection of self in their space. There was a moment when me and the designers sat down and Nalo Soyini, our set designer, threw the central question into the room, ‘who are we making this piece for?’ I think that is an important question you need to be asking yourself as you’re doing the work. Especially as I’m aware I’m very different in my approach.

We discussed that today’s artistic practices aren’t what we want to go for here. We created a world that is much richer and fuller than would be the norm. Some of the areas we couldn’t do that were where resources are limited. It’s a world where most families, not just Pakistani families, would look at that room and recognize it. The set design was a conscious decision to go in that direction.

 

QDF: A lot of the conversation around the show has been about representation of the Muslim identity and the Muslim community in Quebec, can you talk a bit about that?

DF: We really talked about the idea of representation, so audiences coming in and being able to see themselves onstage. We’re hoping and we believe that people will feel,  because this is a community that doesn’t get to see themselves onstage, that this is all about them. We hope that they will see the love we’ve put into it and the celebration. Because really, it was a journey of discovery and how is this falling in love with the music, food, the people.

It was a journey of having people from the culture and people around the table who came from the culture. People to say, ‘hey you know what, this is how we do it’. I always try to do that in my practice but especially in this, giving more over to the actors.

 

QDF: Can you tell us about your practice as a director?

DF: I should declare my practice upfront. I don’t believe in art for the sake of art. People have that practice and god bless ya, but it doesn’t work for me. As a director, they talk about visionaries and I don’t see myself that way. I see myself as a facilitator to the writer and to the actors. I don’t walk into the theatre seeking to make great art, I seek to tell a story. I trust that the actors and the designers are going to collaborate to bring in something beautiful and they can bring it to the stage. If everyone comes together then maybe someone will come and say, that was great art. I’m more interested in them saying, ‘that was great storytelling’.

I come in with an idea of what the story is going to look like. From the table read, what actors start to offer, that image starts to change in my head. You want actors to have a confidence in you, and a part of that is me going home to process the ideas. In this particular case, I did more of that work in the room.

 

QDF: So, a part of your process is empowering actors to take the position of director?

DF: For example, the Isha prayer. We wanted to start the show and finish with the prayer, and we wanted to be authentic with it. So, one person in our cast who is the two, Muslim and Pakistani, presented. I was waiting for someone to come forward who had the authority to teach us. He kindly stepped in and said ‘I know this, do you mind if I do it?’ I said ‘please do’ and I handed the reins over to him.

Because we are representing a family, it was very important that the actors have that connection between characters. It’s incredible the work they did to get there; incredible and generous! To allow themselves to be in the discomfort as we explore this. Allow themselves to find each other in the room while being sensitive to the other actors. To take the moment and be vulnerable while having that dialogue in the room. Because that’s the dialogue we need to be having in the audience. If we avoid having the dialogue then what’s happening out there?

 

QDF: The Domestic Crusaders presented at QDF’s Fall Theatre Calendar Launch, with a very positive reaction! The comedy in the show is poignant and sharp, can you talk a bit about the comedic tone of the play?

DF: I think it’s the craft of the playwright, Wajahat Ali, recognizing self, and the subjects. Most of the work we see depicting the Muslim community is heavy and you come to expect that. This play is coming from a place where a family is around the kitchen table. It’s not just the politics of the family. I’m not just talking politics to my brother, Im talking to my brother and he’s being an asshole about it! I think that being in the audience, the comedy takes the fear out of it because you’re seeing someone else have a conversation about it.

Some of the words are harsh. If you were to say some of this script in mixed company, you would likely raise an eyebrow or two. It’s in the context of a play, but some of the things that are said are really difficult. It’s something that me and the actors spoke about, ‘what am I really saying here?’ Something to understand, why somebody of a minority culture for instance shows dislike to their own culture, where does that come from? It comes from living in a society where only a certain profile of my culture is welcomed. I have to disassociate from them in order to be welcome there, but that’s an illusion as well. Seeing this play, the humour comes from that human-element and people dealing with it in the best way they can.

 

Thank-you to Deborah for taking the time to sit with QDF. You can still see The Domestic Crusaders at Espace Knox – 6215 Avenue Godfrey, until October 6th. For more information, you can check out the Silk Road Institute website here.

 

Behind the Curtain: Sapientia

By Benjamin Chafe

This past week I went and visited the team behind the upcoming production of Sapientia. Running at Mainline Theatre from August 16- August 26, Scapegoat Carnivale’s Sapientia is sure to spark conversations. I met with Alison Darcy (playing Sapientia in addition to Co-Artistic Director of Scapegoat Carnivale), Mia van Leeuwen (Direction and Conceptualization), and Joseph Shragge (Co-Artistic Director of Scapegoat Carnivale and adapted from a literal translation by Lynn Kozak). We sat down at Mainline Theatre, surrounded by the objects that add to the vibrancy of Sapentia. Our dialogue focused primarily on the process of Object Theatre, religion and gender.

QDF: Can you tell us a little bit about what Object Theatre is and why you chose this technique?

Mia van Leeuwen- So, Object Theatre is a form I came in contact with and then eventually trained with and under the tutelage of Grant Guy in Winnipeg, MB. When I was thinking about how to stage Sapientia after Joseph had brought the script to me, I was like ‘oh my gosh, how are we going to do this piece?’ It’s super violent and has all of these miracles in it. With my background in Object Theatre, I put it all together and thought- this is something I can investigate with objects.

Object Theatre is in line with puppetry. Instead of using any form of face, you are using household objects or domestic objects. Sometimes the objects are more designed, which is along with Grant’s work. He would design, do a bricolage or assemblage of objects. In this style of Object Theatre, I learned from Grant, the performer is very much a part of the picture. For people who are new to Object Theatre, it can take a while to get into because they have to see the performer and object move together.

QDF: What’s it like as a performer, negotiating your role while operating the object?

Alison Darcy- I came to it brand spanking new, so everything I’ve learned has been through Mia. I’ve directed puppetry before so I understand it from the outside eye. Looking through the object rather than looking at the person holding the object so a lot of your focus is in placing (the object). Putting your energy into that object. I was struggling a lot with understanding how to do that with an object that doesn’t have a mouth and like googly eyes or hands. I had to get over the idea in my head that I am not trying to animate it to be a person. I have to find a way for the object to move itself or it wants to move itself. If it were to have life, how would it express its life.

I’m playing a hand mirror. She’s very pretty. She has a way to flip her head around, pivot and turn. The way I place my hands can express a lot through the flick of a finger. If I pick her up and move her, is she jumping or flying, what is she doing? It’s a language that I had to find a whole other vocabulary with Mia.

QDF: You’ve referred to the mirror as ‘she’ and ‘her’. So the object as a character then becomes gendered.

AD- Oh yeah. She, the mirror, is a part of me. We’ve had a lot of fun with like, is it the mirror? Is it me? Or is it Allison performing the mirror?

Joseph Shragge- I also think there’s a way the objects reflect gender. Initially, it seems very gendered like this woman and her three little girls displayed with femininity of a vanity mirror and teacups versus this very rugged flashlight. 

QDF: Has Object Theatre changed the way that you view potentially mundane objects in your daily life? Are you seeing objects with a new perspective and how to bring them onstage? 

MvL- As the director, I often work with objects. I am always looking for an object’s potential. Maybe that object could function in a theatrical space, not just as a prop.

JS- It’s really about the performer and the object. Sometimes people get confused about, ‘I don’t know where to look’ and really it’s just about following the story. The performers are in their way telling you when they’re in the objects and when they are themselves.

 

 

QDF: Can you describe the process in selecting the objects that you use in the production?

MvL- When I started the process in 2014, I was studying a religious theatre course in University of Alberta. I started considering how objects could be applied to Sapientia. I started thinking about the teacups. The characters Faith Hope and Charity are each portrayed by teacups. They can be fragile and yet beyond their body is much stronger than the appearance of them.

Sapientia was the first character I chose and I did a lot of reflection in her, and I knew right away that a mirror could function. Because of her actions and the extremism of them, I am not a religious person but I was curious to reflect that character in myself. With Rome, I wanted someone who surveyed the land and decided to use a mechanical flashlight.

AD- We found a lot of fun ways within the text that can be interpreted as literal reference. Words like ‘reflecting’, are literally in the text that we can play off of.

QDF: The production has included a trigger warning. Is there anything you would like audiences to know before coming to the production?

AD- There are also flashing lights we would like to include in the trigger warning. There is violence towards the representation of women or particularly girls in the show. That can be a very upsetting idea. It kind of lies in the genius of choosing to do Object Theatre that we can have a distance from it and witness the act without actually having to watch a woman being tortured on stage. Within this modern climate I think people are asking why we would ever need to see violence against women because we’ve seen it for so long, since antiquity. This is an interesting way to address that and tell this story, while recognizing that we are doing work that is rarely done by the first female playwright. A playwright who’s been forgotten overtime for her male counterparts. So in honouring the piece and the original words but being aware of the society we’re in now and how to intelligently marry those worlds rather than ignore the fact that this will be an issue. 

QDF: Can you tell us about some of the other themes Sapientia explores?

MvL- Violence and miracles. The violence I knew I definitely didn’t want to portray in the piece with realism because it would be way too much and over the top. I was curious how to deconstruct the violence. In Object Theatre you can deconstruct everything. You use mechanics in order to display the actions. As opposed to a more psychological approach.

The miracles, are more difficult to show to stage. The investigation of violence and the feeling of pain in relation to how they feel miracles is really what made me buy into this piece and how to stage both.

 

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Thank you to Alison, Mia, and Joseph for taking the time to meet with me during your busy rehearsal schedule!

 

The talented cast includes Alison Darcy (Sapientia), Robert Leveroos(Hadrian), Alexandra Petrachuk (The Daughters—Faith, Hope and Charity) and Paul Van Dyck (Antiochus), with foley sound performed by Evan Stepanian. Vancouver creator/performer Robert Leverooshas designed a set resembling an industrial kitchen to draw a parallel between the bodily carnage onstage and food preparation. Bruno-Pierre Houle tackles the lighting and costume designs. David Epstein stage manages. Dramaturgy by Anthony Kennedy.

About Scapegoat Carnivale: Scapegoat Carnivale is an award-winning company reflecting the diverse talents and extraordinary creativity of the Montreal artistic community, presenting innovative new work, with an interest is in the carnivalesque, the roughly-hewn, and the highly theatrical. Whether producing new works or adaptations from the classical repertoire, they strive for theatre to be an unruly, visceral and authentic shared experience.

Sapientia

Scapegoat Carnivale at MainLine Theatre, MiniMain Space, 3997 Blvd. Saint-Laurent

Thurs. to Sat.—Aug. 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25: 8pm; Sat. Aug. 25: 2pm; Sun. Aug. 19, 26: 2pm

Ticket prices: $20, $15 student/senior/underemployed; Pay-What-You-Can Aug. 19 at 2pm

Box office: 514 849-3378,www.mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/sapientia

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*Please note there will be talkbacks on August 17, 19, 23 and 24.

Behind the Curtain: The History of Sexuality with Dane Stewart

By Benjamin Chafe

Dane Stewart

Quebec Drama Federation: Alright Dane, let’s get into it! What are some of the main topics in The History of Sexuality?

Dane Stewart: At its core, The History of Sexuality is about queerness and how the queer community interacts with other communities. In this production, 8 of the 9 actors are playing queer characters or queer adjacent; characters that are close to the LGBTQ acronym. I personally identify as gay and explore my own thoughts and experiences throughout this piece. How do I write outside of my understanding? For me, this is a product of how to ethically represent others.

 

QDF: Can you tell us a little bit about Talking Dog Productions?

DS: I needed some sort of company in order to produce my productions. For people who don’t know me, you will after the show, I am a part of the pup play community. So, Talking Dog- I am the talking dog. Last year during pride we did Voices in Leather. It was an oral history exhibit using audio interviews to explore what it means to be a part of the leather community.

 

QDF: Both Voices in Leather and The History of Sexuality provide testimonials. What was the experience like getting the testimonials and personal narratives?

DS: It started as a masters thesis taking a more ethical approach to verbatim interviews. There are texts that I’ve referred to like The Vagina Monologues. However, I’ve been taking a different approach. I run the interviews and fictionalize. In 2016, I transcribed portions through characters. An ethical feedback mechanism and would take the variations back to the participants and see if they can be better represented so the end result is a very kaleidoscope representation- they were theme-driven instead of plot-driven.

 

QDF: You’ve performed this show before, this time being presented with Montréal Pride. How do you think the show reflects Pride?

DS: I definitely think it’s an exciting trajectory for the show. Coming from Mainline and for it to be presented with Pride, I’m thankful that they and Place des Arts gave the opportunity. I think Pride can be perceived as monolithic in what it means to be identified within the LGBTQ community. Hopefully audience members are able to see themselves or a version of themselves outside of the events Pride usually has to offer.  

 

QDF: Have there been any changes in the production since showing at Mainline?

DS: There is a change that people should be aware of. There is a pretty intense narrative of sexual assault. A character has a scene with audio clips of the interview I did with the survivor. I did interviews with perpetrators of sexual assault within the community. There’s now a scene with verbatim interviews of perpetrators of sexual harm so participants should be aware of that.

 

QDF: What do you want the audience to take away from the production?

DS: Hopefully, there is a willingness to listen to others’ experience and for the audience to feel a sense of empathy. We have narratives from sex workers where it is a positive experience for some, and negative for others. We have characters with anxiety and depression. We present the checkered past of the history with authorities, including the police. I hope people come to see it with an open mind and take away something different and personal.

Hood, Erika Rosenbaum.

You can see The History of Sexuality at Fierté Montréal Pride August 9th-12th at Place des Arts, 175 St. Catherine O. Thank you Dane for taking the time to chat with us!