Tag Archives: michael moore

Red Deer College Pride and Prejudice

The graduating class of Red Deer College’s Theatre Performance and Creation program is currently performing in the Jon Jory adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, under the direction of instructor Lynda Adams and coaching by fellow student Evan Macleod.  The adaptation is said to have kept much of Austen’s original written language including the oft-quoted lines.  I am not enough of an Austen fan to verify this, except for the one about the truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.  But there were certainly enough long convoluted sentences to convey the essential comedy-of-manners nature, in which an insult can be delivered so cleverly and politely that it takes the recipient (and the theatre audience) a beat or more to work out that something cutting has been said.  “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet; I send no compliments to your mother” was part of a harsh speech from one of the more blunt characters, Lady Catherine de Burgh (Katie Walker), but it took me a few moments to work out what a snub it was, as I could hear a slow chuckle make its way through the audience.  

I thought that Rina Pelletier as Mrs. Bennet was particularly good at portraying the enthusiasms and motivations of her character through the unfamiliar idiom, and she was an audience favourite.  There was a flouncing-in-her-chair moment in the second act that was especially memorable.   Her husband was played by Richie Jackson, with a lovely contrast of his understated wry asides to his wife’s excesses.  Despite similar costuming and hairdos, the five Bennet sisters gradually became distinguishable from each other, the agreeable eldest Jane (Pharaoh Seeley), clever blunt Elizabeth the protagonist (Kassidee Campbell), Mary the bookworm (Emily Cupples), Lydia who longs to meet soldiers (Emily Seymour), and Lydia’s flighty sidekick Kitty (Robyn Jeffrey).  The characterizations of the clergyman Mr Collins (Brock Beal) and of Mr Bingley’s sister Caroline (Erin Pettifor) were pointed and amusing.  The more successful suitors for the Bennet sisters, the pleasant neighbour Mr Bingley, the aloof Mr Darcy, and the untrustworthy Mr Wickham were played by Damon Lutz, Nate Rehman, and Michael Moore.  Warren Stephens was a butler supervising a staff of stage-crew/footmen, as well as other small parts.

The stage sets, with moving backdrops and furniture and sturdy doors, conveyed the appropriate formality and simplicity.  Garden strolls and private conversations were conveyed by having the characters step down from the main stage level to a lower promenade downstage.   Scenes taking place at balls had appropriate-looking dancing groups in the background.  I enjoyed watching the dancing so much that I wish some of it had been easier to see.  A scene with Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle the Gardiners (Erin Pettifor and Brock Beal) riding in a carriage was mimed so amusingly with rocking over the bumpy road in unison that I didn’t listen to what they were saying.

Pride and Prejudice is playing at the Red Deer College Arts Centre mainstage until Saturday night, with tickets available through Black Knight Inn. 

Zombies and the Bard

Red Deer College’s William Shakespeare in the Land of the Dead, which played in October of last year, was a performance that didn’t fit tidily into a genre.  The title gave a hint of what to expect though – a juxtaposition of Shakespeare and zombies.

The play was written in 2008 or so by John Heimbuch, and directed by Kelly Reay of Calgary.   The cast of fourteen are all students in the graduating year of the Theatre Performance and Creation program, last seen as an ensemble in Ten Lost Years last spring.

The set, constructed in the black-box space of Studio A, created the sense of being in the greenroom or other backstage space at the Globe Theatre shortly after it had been built, with warm yellow lighting and a light mist or haze, rough wooden benches and table, and large exposed beams suspended overhead.  The scene opens with Kate (Pharaoh Amnesty), the ” ‘tiring girl” for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men theatre company, starting to clear up the room while a performance is going on.  Shakespeare (Evan Macleod) and Burbage (Richie Jackson), friends and collaborators, then enter and discuss past and future productions, the politics of the day, the troubles of dealing with actors and patrons, and so on.  Will Kemp (Nate Rehman), the clown of the company who had been known for playing Falstaff, bounces in, pesters Shakespeare to write Falstaff into more scenes, and taunts him that audiences would rather see his jigging and foolishness than a story with a plot.  The parts that I knew about seemed consistent with canon, and this part introduced some of the main characters, but I felt like it dragged a little and was sometimes hard to hear or to follow.

The rest of the company tumbles backstage at the end of their performance, stripping off tabards for Kate and the company apprentice Rice (Robyn Jeffrey) to collect and fold, and calling for everyone to join them at a tavern.  But while Kemp and Shakespeare stay at the theatre, the tavern excursion encounters some zombies and comes back infected.  Other characters attempt to shelter in the theatre, unaware of the contamination, most notably Queen Elizabeth I (Emily Cupples) with a small retinue.  Cupples, in large starched ruff, was splendidly regal.

The production is a wonderful showcase of zombie makeup, because those bitten early in the show show more decay with their every entrance, while those who manage to survive until near the end appear nearly undamaged.  As I don’t have my program for this production at my fingertips I can’t tell you who to credit for this design and application.

Ten Lost Years: Depression memories at Red Deer College

 Ten Lost Years is a book by Canadian Barry Broadfoot, a book of oral history of the Depression years, published in 1973.  It’s compelling reading, even for someone whose Depression memories and influences are second-hand or third-hand.  The initiative for the project collecting the memories and stories of older Canadians, and the title of the book, refer to Broadfoot’s observation that people didn’t tend to talk about those bad times and that they weren’t covered well in schools.

The book was also used as source material for the play Ten Lost Years by Jack Winter and Cedric Smith, first produced in Toronto in the mid-1970s.   Red Deer College’s first year Theatre Performance and Creation class performed the play last week, under the direction of instructor Tom Bradshaw.   The book of short narratives in multiple voices was translated effectively to the stage by making about half the performance short monologues, interspersed with scenes with small and large groups and a few ensemble songs.   The musical pieces, especially the opening and closing renditions of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and the harmonica orchestra were effective in drawing together the disjointed individual stories to give a sense of community, whether in a small town or in a collection of transients huddling in a basement.   In the opening chorus, I was struck by the joy expressed by many of the performers, in particular Rina Pelletier.  Evan Macleod’s piano playing and singing, and Erin Pettifor’s solo of “Over the Rainbow” were also strong contributors to the performance.

All the performers played multiple characters, narrating the different stories and acting them out.  Katherine Walker, Damon Lutz, and Brock Beal evoked some middle- and upper- class characters, providing different perspectives but not without compassion.  Warren Stephens’ scene as the welfare officer reluctantly telling his new client (Michael Moore) that he’s required to surrender his liquor license was painfully effective.  Stories of rape by an employer in a desperately-needed job, and of watching a man at the end of his rope beat a child for losing the change on the way home from the corner store, were powerfully moving even though I had read the book a few days earlier and could recognize what was coming.

Other stories were humorous, affectionate portraits of struggling families and stubborn individuals getting through hard times.  Emily Cupples was amusing as the school principal, calling pupils to listen to the near-inaudible radio broadcast of the Prince of Wales abdicating.  Several scenes used the premise of radio narrative or radio drama, mostly in a good way but I thought that the living-in-an-igloo scene done as radio was just kind of odd.

One very effective directorial choice was to have Michael Moore, a non-white member of the cast, deliver the caution at the beginning about how the real people’s real words might include some expressions that we would find offensive.  And then the first time that the script included a racial slur, the characters on stage all gasped and glanced at the performer of colour in exactly the same way that the audience was doing. He repeated his caution about the real words of the time, everyone sighed, and the scene resumed.

The costumes, with muted shades of cotton and knitwear, and the authentic-looking props, were interesting to look at and valuable in maintaining the sense of the time.  I was particularly moved by looking at the piano light and the washboard, because I remember my parents using ones quite like them.  City Centre Stage is a multipurpose space which is probably primarily a movie theatre, and the production used the screen at the back of the stage to project a photo-album of relevant images.  The raised stage made the first few rows crane our necks to watch, and next time I go there I will sit farther back.

Ten Lost Years has now closed.  The Red Deer College Theatre Performance and Creation class of 2015 will be seen in next academic year’s Performance Art Series, starting in October.  The plays for next year’s series have not yet been announced.