Thursday, 15 December 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Jennifer Stewart

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Jennifer Stewart will train in directing classical theatre with Jeannette Lambermont-Morey at Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie

The Libertine: A Modern Adaptation Focusing on the Female Gaze

(December 3, 2016) The Libertine by Thomas Shadwell was written and performed in 1704 in London, England. Originally based on the story of the Spanish lover Don Juan, the play featured romance, intrigue, sword fighting, violence and divine retribution. Talk Is Free Theatre is producing this classical play in January 2017, using the classical verse as text, but our director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey has adapted the play to focus on the female gaze. In Shadwell’s version of the story Don Juan has been portrayed as a cad, a womanizer and an all-round unsavory chauvinistic male. During preliminary conversations with Jeannette about her vision for the play she stressed the importance of connecting this story to a contemporary audience. She wanted to tell this story from the perspective of the females whom Don Juan encountered. She also wanted to tell the stories using only eight actors who would play multiple roles throughout.

Jeannette Lambermont-Morey has been a director for the past twenty-five years and is also an instructor at George Brown Theatre School, where she teaches the period study class. Her knowledge and expertise in the classical repertoire is astounding. I chose Jeannette as my mentor for this assistant directorship because she has specialized in directing, researching and teaching classical text.

This apprenticeship will allow me to work with Jeannette on breaking down the text, along with the actors, for a clear understanding of the story and poetry of the writing. As a professional actor my background is in music theatre but I have my MFA in Theatre Directing, where I chose to focus on Shakespeare and British Contemporary Theatre. This mentorship will allow me the opportunity to work with professional artists on a classical play that will be produced for a paying audience upon completion of the rehearsal process. I am also interested in working with a female director who has a clear female vision for a very masculine play. I want to watch and learn from Jeannette’s process as a director, as every director has a different approach to working with the text, guiding the actors through rehearsal and giving notes. I want to learn from Jeannette to see how she continues to push the actors to dig deeper to create characters that are rich in depth, inner turmoil and believability.

Recently, I had the opportunity to assist Chris Abraham on a new Canadian play entitled The Wedding Party by Kristen Thomson. Now I will be working with Jeannette on The Libertine with an all-female creative team. I have known Jeannette for almost thirty years but have never had the chance to work with her in a professional capacity. Her passion, excitement and willingness to mentor an emerging director in a professional environment is incredible and I look forward to assisting her every step of the way.

The three goals of this mentorship, from my perspective, are to learn how Jeannette breaks down and works with classical text, how she approaches the text with her actors and how she continues to extract the best possible work from them. Every director has a different way of approaching the work and I feel that with the passion that Jeannette brings every day to the rehearsal room, her directing process with be unique and extremely beneficial to my own trajectory as a director.

Jeannette is an ambitious director and has a large vision for The Libertine. She wants to incorporate music, dance and sword fighting into the action of the story and we have a limited amount of rehearsal time to do so. She hopes to have two rehearsal spaces running every day. She has communicated to me that she wants us to be working together in the mornings and then in the afternoons I will be running the secondary room to rehearse and review the music, dances and fights with the actors who are available to do so. She would like me to act as a second pair of eyes, to bring perspective to her work as well as taking notes for her during the tech and preview period. My job during our prep week is to research the period of the play, assist her with organizing the schedule and sending preliminary information out to the cast as well as prepping for the flamenco dance workshop that we will be hosting during the first week of rehearsals.

This classical direction mentorship with Jeannette is an extremely worthwhile and exciting opportunity for my work as an emerging theatre director. I would like to sincerely thank the Professional Theatre Training Program at Theatre Ontario for believing in this project, and my role in this process. Talk Is Free Theatre continues to program and support very unique and often controversial productions that would not necessarily find a stage to play on otherwise, and since this play has not been produced anywhere in Canada before, I believe The Libertine is such a play.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2017.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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