Thursday, 25 May 2017

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of "Outside Mullingar" at Theatre Ontario Festival 2017

Toronto Irish Players' production of Outside Mullingar
by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Annette G. Procunier of Toronto Irish Players’ production of Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley (representing ACT-CO, the Association of Community Theatres—Central Ontario.)
  • Script was chosen from their reading group; usually produce Irish-written works, but wanted to explore something from the diaspora
  • Perform at Alumnae Theatre, a converted fire-hall with 146 seats
  • Production had an economical approach to design; the two houses between Act 1 and Act 2 were alike yet different, frame set pieces to suggest
  • Use of cyclorama colours helped provide mood
  • Everything on the stage allowed us to become absorbed into the action, while using areas to give us sense of other places
  • It’s a play of alternatives: holding onto the past, letting that eat up the present; waiting for something else rather than living in the now
  • Wonderful, simple choice to show the passage of time by Anthony moving back and forth across the front of the stage, changing coats to show change of time
  • Constant drinking during Act 2 was a wonderful choice; the characters didn’t drink a great deal, allowed that kind of conversation to start, in the script the scene rings a bit false without it; when he gets a bottle reflects change in relationship
  • Entrances into the house lacked specificity: clarity of front entrance and the back entrance
  • Singing by Rosemary and Aoife of “Wild Mountain Thyme” in the scene change helped inform the characters’ relationship—while functionally serving the set/costume change: we stayed in the world of the play
  • Tony and Aoife’s scene: We believe their long shared history; they sat without a lot of blocking which was a good, risky choice; trusted in the text
  • Anthony’s costumes could have been crustier-looking
  • The physicality of Tony’s death: Director didn’t want it to be melancholy, Tony was a proud man bringing strength to the end, would have stood if he could; Legitimate choice, but suggestion is then to take more time, so that he would read less energetic
  • Showing the ring in the final image of Act 1: make it clear that something is going to happen, especially since dialogue makes clear he has done nothing with the ring in three years
  • Tony’s scene was a poignant exploration of “in love”
  • First-class acting—performers had talent and technique
  • Act 2 was a tour-de-force: Every comment had a reaction, nothing was without a response; took time, trusting audience to go with performers, kept audience engaged
  • Different reaction at home, primarily an Irish audience with bigger laughs on Tony and Aoife talking about places where they come from, but other lines got laughs for the first time in Ottawa
  • Good sense of them as neighbours, plausible that they would wait this long
  • Actors were at their finest trying to “get it out: Anthony’s line “I believe that I am a honeybee” then we see Rosemary trying to process it; similarly “Yes, I’m a virgin” / “We can fix that” was beautifully played—characters were self-conscious but actors were not
  • First performed in October/November; began remount on April 9
  • Lighting designer couldn’t remember all the original cues—always the biggest challenge since costumes are the same, set fundamentally the same, lighting has different instruments, hung differently, not enough rehearsal time: it was clear what were mistakes in execution (rather than design)
  • Similarly, sound levels will be different in new venue
  • As a designer/director you must nitpick (“pick the fly shit out of the pepper”) but audiences won’t when they are absorbed in the production
  • Re-visiting the work meant finding MORE: exploring more; seeing more things, knowing the characters more; things you had forgotten you re-discovered in a new way; director’s instruction was to “re-live”, not re-produce; positive vibes bringing it back into the working space after a successful run
  • A specific example was the timing in the Guinness sequence; the moments were refined; “stage business” is good when it allows the characters time to react
  • Repetition is human nature, character’s repetitive quicks help make characters seem more truthful
  • Aoife walking away in her final scene with Rosemary, movement showed us that she was pronounced, her hip was causing problems, her death was imminent
  • Anthony and Tony relationship: nagged each other, but there was no sense that he was going to leave
  • Director acknowledged Producer as unsung hero, taking care of everyone including the Director
  • Applauded their commitment to craft
As always, this is my best effort to record the conversation at the Detailed Adjudication, with apology for any misrepresentations of the ideas of the members of the company and the adjudicator. Corrections and clarifications are welcome in the comments.

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