Thursday, 24 May 2018

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of “Dead Accounts” at Theatre Ontario Festival 2018

Ottawa Little Theatre's production of Dead Accounts
by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Maja Ardal of Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of Dead Accounts by Theresa Rebeck (representing EODL, the Eastern Ontario Drama League.)

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.
  • This text moves from high energized comedy to deadly serious text: that collision makes for good theatre
  • Set features an intense naturalism: a rich, detailed set; impression of a convex mirror with everything stretched; actors skin colour blended with the wall colour; company acknowledged lighting needed tweaking, walls should have been brighter
  • Fit precisely: stage dimensions were similar to Ottawa Little Theatre; they have a wrap-around cyc at home which they used to fully surround the set
  • Music needs to have a presence: it must match both the high energy of the play and the crispness of the performances
  • Because they needed blackouts, they must be earned because we are seeing nothing: How do you “reward” the audience in a blackout? Suggestion was louder music that matched the play’s energy (sound tended to be cloudy and unclear)
  • Opening scene: Jack is frantic; raises the concern: is this the level we will see all show? Instead, used to establish urgency for character
  • Jack demonstrated incredibly physical expression; director’s job was to edit the actor who gave more and more; this is expected: actor will work on impulse and director must edit that
  • What is driving the frantic-ness: Is it a guilty conscience? The adrenaline from doing a terrible thing? Drugs?  The most interesting choice is the one driven by circumstance
  • On the surface text can seem shallow, but the production found depths in it
  • Lorna carries the theme of the play (e.g. planted a stick and had to wait for it… a metaphor for her relationship with Phil); also embodies the middle-class, the mid-west, tough economic times (living at home)
  • Applauded the company for not getting sentimental
  • Barbara represents the generation before (e.g. keeping religion central, etc.)
  • The company earned the quieter scenes by playing comedy
  • Finale describes “splitting the kitchen apart”; could not figure out how to drive the execution of that; chose the lighting gobo effect to suggest the trees
  • What makes Jack come home?  Text is unclear (in a positive way) giving opportunity to play—he’s a casualty and a winner; some remarkable writing for this character
  • Did the play need a natural set? Designer felt you needed to recognize a 1950s home and a safe place for Jack; set also gave the feel of a space for a live-studio-audience sitcom (reflecting some of the tone of the play); details that show Lorna’s influence (e.g. the Keurig machine); working appliances to help the audience experience the kitchen feel (smell the coffee, the toast, etc.)
  • The sequence when the father is going to the hospital: showed passage of time through a series of blackouts and images of Jenny in the house—challenging to do
  • Transitions between scenes took a long time; new stage manager for this performance and her first time calling the show
  • Barbara talking over Lorna on the telephone—well-executed; most of the content itself is not critical (necessary information which was well-communicated), and Barbara dealing with various props helped us connect with what was going on
  • Phil’s performance demonstrated someone trying to use all his senses to gather information
  • Use of real food helped with the sensual experience (working freezer, real ice cream, etc.)
  • Also very Cincinatti-specific—recognizable and authentic (cast member had Ohio in-laws that helped supply props).
  • Text also has a love of the mid-west that tends to be lookerd down up on from the urban, financial world
  • Jenny is a challenging character: described so terribly, how do you find the qualities that Jack could love
Learn more about Theatre Ontario Festival 2018

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