Thursday, 26 May 2016

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of Curved at Theatre Ontario Festival 2016

By Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Mimi Mekler of Gateway Theatre Guild’s production of Curved by Kristin Shepherd (representing QUONTA.)
  • This was a premiere production of a new work – what was the process like?  Company wouldn’t leave the playwright alone, concerned about characters and how to portray, needed to learn to make own decisions
  • Director described it as a sometimes painful birth
  • Text is open to interpretation: playing what it means, trying opposites
  • First performed in the Fall; relationships have developed between characters
  • One performer described process as still going: in a house of mirrors, in a maze, sometimes hitting walls
  • Also found joys in doing a character for the first time; unable to research other perspectives, finding hints to interpretations
  • Plays has two structural elements: characters at microphone “stand-up comedy” vs. “traditional” interior scenes
  • Opening stand-up scene: Director gradually grasped answers to questions—what are we trying to do to the audience? What is the relationships among the five characters in the first scene?
  • Interpreting text: Who is the audience for the stand-up comedy? Are they allies or judges? Dell is trying to claim them and to impact the others
  • Bring clarity to moments: When Granny Wave was listening to Dell, the intention was unclear? Her goal was for Dell to pull up her boot-straps…what action would bring clarity to that moment, and help us understand the dynamic between their characters?
  • The opening scene is exposition, and actors cannot play exposition; need to always answer the question: What do I want from my scene partners? When it involves direct address to the audience, that question includes them—what do you want from them? Wavy interrupting Dell was a great example of that clarity in relationship between characters.
  • What impels the characters to break out of a scene into the stand-up comedy?—Similar to why does a character burst into song in a musical? The most successful example of that was Chloe in the final scene—the tension in it drove her out of the scene.
  • How did the cast become comfortable with the “taboo” sexual language? Company never found it jarring: a circle of women—company of women, written by a woman; part of the world
  • Set Design: Curvy, feminine, areas were multi-purposes; original design concept involved three levels with more distinct, literal area definitions but the Director wanted it more undefined and the set was opened up during rehearsal
  • One problem was the chair: it was realistic while other pieces were much more open. Options could have been more function cube, or more overtly symbolic (e.g. use a rocking chair, a symbol of motherhood, etc.); it was a late change to the set design, the original was more antique, squarer, but practically won out
  • The cloth on the bed was extremely well-lit
  • Choir music was live during the November performance, recorded for QUONTA and Theatre Ontario Festivals; song was specific from the playwright
  • Costumes reflected a good carry-through of the colours; outrageous turquoise for Granny, and then neutral beige for Dell
  • Wavy’s first costume was confusing (especially given the nature of the casting concept of an adult playing a child): Tried party dresses but didn’t find one that worked, Choice was that she was trying to look grown-up, playing dress-up and had took something from Granny. That choice could have been better served by more theatricality: not fitting well, or from an older time period
  • Lighting areas seemed just off from the performers
  • With the first laugh line, Wavy won over the audience
  • In the opening scene, switching between the microphones and their voices was causing difficulties. The performers vocal work was fine, so microphone level might have been too high.
  • Granny’s makeup was bold; and made for an easy transition when she was sick.
  • Good choral work between Wavy and Granny: the pitch allowed us to hear them as individuals while achieving the choral effect.
  • Granny’s stand-up technique choice read as indistinct; Dell (the master) and Wavy (pretending to be a stand-up comedian) had clarity of choices
  • Chloe’s costume choices—conveying Chloe’s offstage life, impractical but keep her stable as she doesn’t have to follow work rules anymore
  • The interior/realistic scenes had a presentational style: Was that intentional (for contrast with the stand-up comedy) or practical?  Director wanted them to be seen and heard, trying to keep it simple so the audience hears the text rather than the business
  • Dell’s argument with Wavy about the shoes: It read as if the character had already given into the obstacle, rather than bringing tactics to persuade her to put on the shoes. (Performer had technical issues.)
  • Nurse—a tiny part with almost the same line over and over, yet brought different tactics to it each time. This character is important and was well-played: the face of the world outside the play.
  • Wavy riding the tricycle was a strong visual transition into the flower shop: the set change and music were good, but the counter trapped Estelle.
  • Established night scene well with flashlights, sound of insects.
  • Dell adding pauses to her stand-up routines through the play: established a clear transition towards the final one when she says nothing.
  • Granny had good pitch range while speaking post-stroke; helped us understand a lot.
  • Conflict in this scene could have benefitted from more interruptions: Not polite actors letting each other finish, listen where you have to, but building to a climax.
  • In Act Two, Dell and Chloe had twinned physicality; conflict might have benefitted from a choice to play the opposites in the physicality instead
  • Estelle and Wavy brought clear tactics to the fight.  Find ways to explore how to use props emotionally in a scene—the flowers, the vases, etc.
  • One of Chloe’s addresses to the audience, she seemed to have a hard time finding “someone” to speak to… is that actually necessary?
  • Dell and Wavy’s joke sequence was a lovely use of one-liners as sub-text. Text plus emotion created something larger.
  • A technical sequence was off. They had introduced a new sound cue, the Stage Manager had only one rehearsal with it: Stage Management needs rehearsal time too! Approximately 50 to 75 cues in the show.
  • The hospital visit: Estelle, Wavy, Granny all had clear moments if decision.
  • Dell’s drowned look was effective: creepy and ambiguous.
  • Leaves us with an uncomfortable question: What happens to Wavy after this play is over?
  • Good curtain call music to set the right tone for the end of the play.
As always, this is my best effort to record the conversation at the Detailed Adjudication, with a standard apology for any misrepresentations of the ideas of the adjudicator and the members of the company. Corrections and clarifications are welcome in the comments.

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