Thursday, 25 May 2017

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of "Waiting for the Parade" at Theatre Ontario Festival 2017

Northumberland Players' production of Waiting for the Parade
by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Annette G. Procunier of Northumberland Players’ production of Waiting for the Parade by John Murrell (representing the Eastern Ontario Drama League—EODL)
  • Group performed originally in a 50-seat venue, the Firehall Theatre
  • Director took on play from her interest in subject matter, heard stories of life at home during Second World War
  • Play has interesting sensibility: written by a man, not Canadian- or British-born
  • Takes place over six years, women age over the course of the play, challenge for company is depicting that evolution over time
  • Established the character types, but then gnawed away at the edges
  • Beautiful palette for the show
  • Music was evocative, changed with the time of the play
  • Props were excellent, but the only one that was unclear was the teddy bear in Catherine’s area: director intended to depict her child, problem was that it was not engaged enough in the action, seemed ornamental rather than useful
  • Discussed differences between symbols and images: symbols are what they are (e.g. a cross is a clear Christian symbol) whereas images objects/sound/actions represent something
  • Set used platforms/risers for certain areas: Marta’s area was quite full
  • Lights are always a challenge in Festivals, especially with this show’s women of varying heights
  • Janet’s hat had an ornamental object on top; she needed to keep her head up so that her face would not go into the shadow of the object—audiences need to see faces in order to hear them
  • Each actress has an internal rhythm that helped distinguish the characters; they took time and were willing to react, there was never an disengaged moment
  • When the characters were not in the scene, they were in their own world, not frozen (e.g. Marta was sewing by hand, referenced by her father for delicate work, the action draws us to her)
  • Would Janet’s area with the piano have benefited from being on a riser/platform?  She is the “bossy boots” and would give her height and status
  • Catherine’s playing area was S.C. and concerning: most central – does that mean hers is the most important story?
  • Catherine’s story would play well S.R., delving into love and sexuality
  • Had a riser U.S.C. – originally 3 feet high, but then stairs would be needed and would get in the way of the playing areas, lowered
  • Clear white light isolation on Marta while she was talking to the officials was extremely effective
  • Another effective scene was the fight between Catherine and Janet—rehearsing violence before the show is helpful so that nothing is left to chance
  • Discussed choice in the blocking that Janet backed up when Catherine challenged her: it weakened her position; the intention could have been achieved by having her turn and walk away instead, it becomes Janet’s choice to move and remains vulnerable, Catherine then has to move to her—keeps the stakes up
  • Eve did not caricature, which can be a trap with that character; she is na├»ve but not silly—as a teacher, she would have been eaten alive if she was silly; an excellent example of non-caricature was in the “practicing blackout” scene
  • Monologue styles—performers should always think about who you are talking to when addressing the audience
  • Good transition of scenes with motion taking us from moment-to-moment
  • Costumes were lively, shoes were terrific—showed evolution of characters, especially Janet and Catherine
  • Picnic was staged on the U.S.C. platform: In their home theatre, you cannot see scenes on the floor; may have benefitted here from being D.S.
  • Play was funny, without being over-the-top (Margaret’s “I can’t stand that woman” was an example)
  • Marta and Janet’s confrontation: it was indistinct where Janet was coming from, as she left in a different direction: the narrowness of the space meant that it was played very close together, environment did not allow characters to have appropriate responses (e.g. Janet not looking  at her)
  • First entrances are always significant; the opening dances helped establish the relationships
  • Eve’s reactions to Harry were good—textual question is “Why did she marry him?”
  • Janet may be most “under-written” character in the play; her relationship with Jack is not established early, her monologue is where she articulates why she does what she does
  • Ways to make Janet more aggressive through exploration of vocal work: sharpness/emphatic comes in consonants (“Nice and tight”)
  • How nice that Janet could actually play the piano—music could be mournful when needed
  • The dancing in the final scene could emphasize more of their relationships and its evolution
  • Similarly, the singing evolves over the course of the show—the first time it is perfunctory, but it becomes better as we explore their personalities; Marta sings “Lili Marlene” differently (“It’s one of their songs”); unclear how they heard her sing: if she sang from her space in the set, it conveys the sense of her music disrupting the others (emphasized in her confrontation with Janet); Would that split focus?
  • In an episodic script like this one, find ways to connect the dots
  • The drinking scene following the news that Catherine’s husband was missing: Margaret had an effective balance of sympathetic without condoning, taking and giving focus effectively; Drunkenness was believable, not burlesque; Catherine stayed seated giving her an opportunity to show lack of focus concentration; Marta turned her glass over when she was done drinking—good choice as very European; Catherine’s fall with her dress flailing up was well executed and committed
  • D-Day Monologues: Scene could have benefitted from taking greater risks in soundscape so that the battle sounds were 10-times louder by the end, forcing us into the horrible situation for a brief time
  • Audience was listening intensely; credit to performers
  • For actors, risk-taking should involve pushing scenes to the limit in order to find the boundary; you can always pull a scene back but can’t force it—for Catherine, successful examples were the fight with Janet, the drinking scene, the heartbreak of Margaret writing with the eraser-end of the pencil; similarly for Margaret painting her own legs—showed us that she had made the emotional leap
  • Find everything in the script, all of the uncomfortable places
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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