Thursday, 24 May 2018

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of “Tempting Providence” at Theatre Ontario Festival 2018

ELATE's production of Tempting Providence
by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Maja Ardal of Elliot Lake Amateur Theatre Ensemble’s production of Tempting Providence by Robert Chafe (representing QUONTA, the northeastern Ontario community theatre association.)

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 always welcome in the comments.
  • Strong opening: no pre-show music, lighting at half for the play`s beginning, the nurse came in as if from abroad
  • Quickly established the convention that the style will be the transformation of objects into set pieces
  • Minimalism can make you creative (e.g. particularly liked two chairs with a blanket spread overtop to make the shape of a cradle)
  • Actors then embody the script
  • Off the top, the actors seemed unsettled and nervous—breathing exercises are encouraged to help manage that
  • Costumes were neutral; inspired by images they had seen of other productions: always take the best of what we can find
  • Goal of actors is to live inside the story, and bring it alive fully
  • Who is the audience and why are you compelled to tell the story?
  • For Myra, it was internal – that “other self” you can tell your worst things to
  • For Angus, an amazing story that his pals need to hear; he clearly had the most fun, adding a twinkle his eye to demonstrate his enjoyment
  • For Man and Woman, it was the gossipy community
  • In a moment, actors need to see it, feel it, smell it—experience it; the performers’ nervousness meant that they were “selling it” before “experiencing it”
  • For example, one quality of Newfoundland is that vigorous, robust smell
  • Myra states she has no time for emotion; her journey is admitting to her emotion, so she can’t start with emotion
  • Also, emotion is a by-product of your objective—be careful of trying to show the emotion or letting the emotion be the driver; if you “over deliver” the emotion, it doesn’t give the audience space to appreciate the story
  • This is a community of denial, and Woman is our first example of that as someone from the community; we saw too much of her breakdown rather than the denial of her breakdown, never let go of your objective and focus on one thing at a time
  • Woman as Mrs. House: She is testing Myra, putting her through an examination as well, finds out that she’s tough enough (she passes!)
  • In every scene, always identify who am I here with this person in this moment
  • Text is lyrical, and Myra brings the lyricism
  • Angus’ delivery tended to finish a sentence and come to a stop; became a pattern of delivery that the performer needs to be aware of
  • Be rigorous with your pace: first act was supposed to run 70 minutes, but it actually ran closer to 90 minutes; for example when Man as Alex comes with the news about the baby coming, Myra needs to be rushing (rather than going back to her baking); moving into a tableau could show us the rushing
  • Pace DOESN’T mean rushing: keep the objective alive, breathe
  • For actress playing Myra, this was her first major role; she brought presence and charisma, encouraged to keep focusing on what will bring a character alive
  • Yawning is always another good warm-up technique to wake up the body
  • When playing a character, voice and face are the last elements: Begin with the spine and pelvic base and think about questions of the body (How long have I worked? Where is my head? Etc)
  • Actors were seniors, but young people can struggle with physicality just as much
  • “Our bodies tell the truth when our language doesn’t”
  • Opening of play: trying to solve challenge of how to bring on the live musician, he came onto the stage as a mummer (part of Newfoundland culture)
  • Musician responded to actor’s feelings, music was gentle; other option for a live musician is to escalate the tension—music can move forward rather than reflect back
  • The end of Act One was “divine” (pulling the tooth, selling the marriage proposal)
  • When miming, consider doing a workshop: sometimes the objects seemed to disappear rather than always be there throughout
  • Company brought desire and commitment, and will continue to develop craft over time
Learn more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2018

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