As reported in my first blog, Theatre Night in Merrickville’s performance of Having Hope at Home had to be cancelled at the intermission on Wednesday due to a power outage throughout the neighbourhood. Can you image how they must have felt? The next morning the group was up bright and early (6am), and at the theatre to strike their set. Then, they trouped over to the hotel for the detailed adjudication with John P. Kelly. There was a sombre mood at the start of the adjudication. John P. began with a figurative hug for all the cast and crew. We were also informed that author David S. Craig, his wife, and “Dawn”—the midwife that a character in the play is based on—were in the audience.
For the adjudication, John P. treated the first act as if it was the entire play. He and Director Margaret Shearman had a lively discussion of all the aspect of the production and the challenges the group faced from the script, and from moving from one venue to another. They had to cut off 20 feet of their original set in order to fit it onto the Domino Theatre stage! All the cast and crew were engaged with John P. in discussion of the production. When I go to theatre, I find the use of music in a play particularly moving—this play had live music performed by Marcia Phillips and Gary Roberts. While cast and crew may have been sombre at the beginning of the adjudication, much laughter and good discussion morphed the adjudication and the entire process into a much more positive experience.
In the afternoon, John P. had a workshop/discussion with about 25 participants. Entitled “Regrets? – I’ve had a few…” it was an open-ended and wide-ranging conversation about theatre. Topics included a brief history of theatre; reality and its place in theatrical production; comparison of adjudication in Ireland, the United States, and Canada; pace; and, finally, movement. Whoa! Lively discussion by all made for a fascinating afternoon.
Thursday night brought us Theatre Ensemble’s production of Orphans by Dennis Kelly. This is not an easy play to watch. The audience are voyeurs (aren’t we always?) as the relationships between a husband, his wife, and her brother disintegrate in one evening. Through it all, there was laughter, there were tears, and the audience’s sympathy was constantly changing as the story unfolded. The tension in the audience was palpable and the devastation at the end was almost complete. No belly laughs here, but strong performances by all three actors.
At the Friday morning adjudication, John P. spent time talking to the cast/directors about the rehearsal process. Orphans had four directors—the three cast members and the stage manager are all listed in the program as directors. It was not what was originally planned for the production, but an actor had to drop out, the original director stepped into a role, and as a group they decided to try to share the directing. It was fascinating to hear how they worked collectively to create the show.
John P. also discussed with the group the choice to change the setting of the play from England to Windsor, Ontario and the script changes that came out of this choice. The group was able to explain the process they went through to make changes, their reasons why, and even some of the difficulty that came when seeking permission to make these changes. When they had first started working on the play, Dennis Kelly was a fairly unknown writer and they were able to call and email him directly. However, he is the same Dennis Kelly who wrote the book for Mathilda the Musical, which has become a sensation on Broadway. Needless to say, he is harder to reach these days.
With Playwrights Canada Press now in Kingston with scripts for sale in the hospitality suite, John Lazarus reading Friday afternoon (thank you to Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Canada Council for support for his presentation), and Friday night’s presentation from Markham Little Theatre, when will I find time to eat?