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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Something Wicked... at the U of A Drama Department

Last night I took in the 3rd BFA Class production of MacBeth in Corner Stage.  For the class it is technically an acting course, but there was nothing classroom-like about the production.  For little or no production costs Director Ron Jenkins managed to put together a tight piece with fantastic lighting, sound and costumes (designed by Victoria Krawchuk).  I went for a number of reasons.  MacBeth is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, I know many of the cast members from other productions and classes, and I know the fight choreographer, Janine Hodder, very well and wanted to see what she had done with the numerous sword fights in the piece.  I was blown away!  Yes, she's my friend, but I can comment here - there is some fantastic fighting in this show and it is up and down and all around - on tables, up and down stairs, fast and layered and I was so impressed (as were the people I saw it with!).  I know that she has really enjoyed working with this class and for some of the more complicated fighting sequences she has some actors who are physically skilled and enthusiastic and they sold it. I look forward to seeing more from her with or without the swords.  I think because Janine is also an actor and director she understands that the fights have to fit within the piece and maintain the momentum.  I have seen too many fights in theatre where the show feels like it stops while the actors have a little fight and then resume after the fight finishes.  That does not happen here - instead the fights push the tension higher and higher.  Very cool and very exciting to watch. I loved a lot of the directorial choices that Ron Jenkins made.  The Witches are creepily childlike and erotic, the relationship between MacBeth and the Lady (Neil Kuefler and Georgia Irwin the night I saw it - it switches) is highly sexualized and you can see their connection.  This is a strong class overall and it really showed.

On the drive home I reflected a bit on the phenomenal educational opportunities for a student in the University of Alberta Drama program.  This was a free theatre experience (sign-up and then donations welcome) and technically anyone can go to them.  There are several of these throughout the year that students can watch.  Even the productions that they would have to pay for are ridiculously inexpensive for a student (or regular adult for that matter).  So not only do the performing students (whether BFAs, MFAs, or BAs) get an opportunity to develop their skills on the stage, but those in the audience have their education further rounded out in the watching of the shows.  When I got my degree many, many moons ago (let's say around 20 years ago) this was the case.  For me, watching these shows which ranged in production value from neutral pieces to full designs taught me that I would rather see a well acted and emotionally committed show on a bare stage than a show with all the bells and whistles that was emotionally absent.  I was thankful that while I was completing a B.Ed. in Sciences I had a roommate in the BA Drama program who knew about this stuff and I got to see it.  I certainly think that any Drama student, whether in Arts or Education, who is not attending the productions on hand in the department is seriously undervaluing the benefit of those experiences in their education, and I encourage those who love theatre who might be in a different faculty to check them out.  It won't cost you anything!

In the spirit of more Free Theatre - tonight I will be attending the following:

Secrets by Jacqueline Dumas
March 16, 2013 7:30pm
PCL Studios, Fringe Theatre Adventures-10330- 84 Ave.
Admission by donation

Meet Maria Goretti and Pauline, sisters who haven’t spoken in the 45 years since their father died under mysterious circumstances. They reunite as their mother is on her death bed. Can they finally share their secrets and become sisters again? What has really kept them apart for so many years?
Secrets is a sequel of sorts to Madeleine and the Angel, Dumas’ 1989 award-winning novel of 1950’s franco-Alberta. Forty-five years later: what has become of the two sisters?

I was in a Playwright's Circle last spring with playwright Jacqueline Dumas and I loved this piece.  I caught a sneak peek of it last weekend at Skirts AFire and I am interested in seeing where it has evolved to. 

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