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Thursday, February 09, 2012

One Small Step for Theatrekind...

This week the New Works Festival opened at the University of Alberta. I was fortunate to be able to direct one of the pieces which is being presented. I attend the University of Alberta as a Special Student in the Department of Drama and have been doing so for the past four years. I had a show in New Works 2 years ago as a Playwright (Tight Rope) but the completion of my ADship at Walterdale had allowed me to free up a lot of my time so I applied to direct. I was accepted and overjoyed to find out that I would be directing Bevin Dooley's script, The Playmates. It has been a wonderful experience. I loved working with Bevin and the Production Team as well as the Festival Team. So just for experience I have been blessed. I am also very pleased with the show itself - the script, the cast, my crew, the designers - truly wonderful people to work with.

The Festival opened Tuesday Night. I had to wait for Mark to get home so I missed the first piece, a Staged Reading of Fire in their Eyes by Ben Dextraze and directed by MFA Candidate Jessica Carmichael. I hope to catch it later in the Festival. One of my cast members saw it and said she quite liked it. New Works is about development of work and apparently this piece will change throughout the festival as they are treating the festival as a workshop so that might be one to catch on more than one night to get the sense of development of a piece. I know before I started writing I would think of plays being unmalleable once produced, but I have learned that not to be true. The work is not frozen in Amber. A piece can evolve and have more than one incarnation as the playwright crafts it. This has been observable for me with the staged reading on Night B: Murmurations of Starlings by Evan Tsitsias, directed by MFA candidate Donna Marie Baratta. As part of the festival tech week I sat through tech and dress rehearsals and Opening Night and the evolution of the piece in those three days has been incredible. It is really very cool to watch a play evolve from one draft to the next, to the next. Whereas the non-reading plays are basically set for the duration of the festival - these readings are still evolving and it is pretty cool to see. You can only imagine what the script will grow into as the playwright continues with the writing process.

Following the reading on Night A were Sitter and Felix and Max. The two shows I got to see were quite enjoyable. The first a comedic juxtaposition of two different couples in an unusual situation. The writing was natural and funny with smooth direction. The second dynamic, funny and full of tension with an almost absurd ending. On Night B, just before us, is Laundry Cycle - a fast paced comedy which I absolutely loved. As part of my directorial application involved reading the four produced scripts it was very cool to see what the other directors did with them, as well as see how the script evolved. Since the process is about developing work all four scripts changed from the original submissions. I was really impressed with what their assigned directors did with the pieces and how they used the space. We all share the same set and yet each one of us uses it so differently. It becomes a house, a 2-story apartment, 2 apartments, and a rocky coastline and it works beautifully for all of them. I think the Festival Directors did a great job matching directors to plays because each of the other directors seemed to make choices that totally worked for the scripts they were working with.

Anyhow, I gush. Hard not to when you are in the midst of things and really enjoying the experience. I do, however, highly recommend checking out one or both nights of this Festival. For $10 you can see 3 brand new plays written by future Daniel MacIvors or Judith Thompsons. If you can't make both nights or even a whole night, I highly recommend you check out The Playmates, which goes up on Night B (Fri 9:45 p.m., Sat 4:15 p.m., Sun 9:45 p.m.). I am quite proud of it and would love if you came and checked it out.

#4 and #5 of my theatre goals for the year.

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