Thursday, 19 May 2011

Adjudication of Suds: Lessons Learned On Imagination, Bubble Machines, and Underwear

by Brandon Moore, Communications Coordinator

My musings from this morning’s detailed adjudication of Whitby Courthouse Theatre’s presentation of Suds
  • Having the adjudicator and company on the stage of The Curtain Club, with the Festival attendees sitting in the auditorium, makes it much easier to hear the dialogue throughout the adjudication
  • A shame that director Mike Trites wasn’t able to attend due to work commitments; theatre depends on choices and those decisions form the core for Jane Carnwath’s dialogue with the company; it would have been interesting to hear him talk, as Jane observed he clearly has “kept his childlike imagination” in crafting this production
  • Commendations to the team of Director, Choreographer Tara Forbes, and Musical Directors Eric Brydges & Janice Brydges for how the music, dancing and staging brought the text to life
  • When this production moved from the Whitby Courthouse Theatre to the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, the stage size doubled; “there were some modifications that had to be made,” admitted Ian Handscomb, Set Designer
  • Highlight of the set was definitely the wall dryers which spun in beat with the dancing, and also functioned as a magical source of props—and even an entrance
  • They chose to take advantage of the Centre’s fly gallery which they didn’t have in their own space
  • Heather Gibb, who played Cindy, was dancing despite wearing a back-brace
  • The lighting design by Kevin Arbour helped convey some of the magic of the story (the story features two guardian angels); when lighting a comedy, always consider how brightness can serve the comedy by “opening up” the performers and the connection with the audience
  • The choreography choices favoured a lot of front and centre presentation to the audience; one topic for exploration during rehearsal is trying more singing to each other, especially when the lyrics of the songs are about making connections between characters
  • Lovely palette choice for the costumes designed by Valerie Skinner; topic for discussion is the choice of how to costume the character of Mrs. Halo—they chose a “spangly” route but what are the opportunities in making her more frumpy?
  • First discussion of underwear: “I was impressed by the mileage you got out of a pair of boxer shorts” – Jane Carnwath; never underestimate the power of a good prop
  • The musical directors created some sophisticated harmonies; the cast members had to be versatile and jump between soprano, alto and bass lines
  • “You don’t necessarily have to have a wonderful voice, you have to commit to selling the song, and this was a wonderful sales job”
  • “Legitimate theatre”: a new term for me that some use to refer to non-musical theatre?
  • Something I found myself wondering about the show’s characters that I should have asked during the Q&A: Ultimately, what makes the difference between an archetype and a stereotype? Where is the boundary in distinguishing between the use of these terms for characters? It’s always a distinction of quality; does it simply reflect greater reflection by the writers, actors, etc.?
  • Perhaps the greatest potential in this text (and what this production found) was how it evokes a period when popular music was coming into its own as a cultural force
  • The script refers to multiple “Finales”; one can divine the authors’ intention is to build and build and build to an over-the-top conclusion—and thus, bubble machines!
  • But that also reflects that this is a text that wants to “jolly up” the audience constantly; a comparison was made to a hugely-popular big budget musical that is not “a happy show” but seems to want to have that happy finale
  • Interesting Q&A discussion about how many people knew the songs in the show (audible shock when one cast member admitted she didn’t previously know “Where The Boys Are”); I think it speaks very much to different generations and what we all grew up with (about 75% of the songs were familiar to me based on what my parents listened to while I was growing up)
  • More discussion about underwear: apparently the company had an extremely difficult time finding affordable period bras for the women, especially when there is a line in the script about bullet bras; apparently the costume designer experimented wearing cones made out of cardboard for a day, and assured the cast that they were “lovely”
  • I was interested in exploring how one finds the subtext in a song; I’ve heard of people doing songs as monologues as a rehearsal technique; cast member Donna Lajeunesse, who is an experienced musical theatre performer, described it as a natural process for her, building on what Jane calls the “hinges” from text to song; Jane also observed that the music itself is also an expression of text that needs to be explored
  • That relationship between director, musical director, choreographer and how they collaborate on interpretation is something that fascinates me; I need to try it
Also, an example of the networking value of Festival: the company from Kingston, who are building a new facility, were particularly interested to see how The Curtain Club provides flexible accessible seating to the patrons and their removable seats.

The Theatre Ontario Festival continues this afternoon with Jane’s Adjudicator’s Workshop at The Curtain Club, and tonight Espanola Little Theatre takes the stage at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts with the bilingual comedy Balconville by David Fennario.  ELT represents QUONTA, the northeastern Ontario region extending from North Bay to Timiskaming to Timmins to Sault Ste. Marie.

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