Antigone Dead People
The tale of Antigone, part of the Oedipus legend, gets a whole new perspective in Evan Webber's vision of the story.
Workshopped last week by Small Wooden Shoe in association with Theatreworks Productions, Antigone Dead People gives a distinctly modern feel to the tragedy of the title character, one of Oedipus' children.
After their father steps down from power, brothers Eteocles and Polynixes argue over who should rule the kingdom; they die fighting each other. Their uncle, Creon, becomes king and declares that Eteocles should have a hero's funeral while Polynixes will not be allowed burial. Their sister, Antigone, defies Creon and is imprisoned, with catastrophic results for the entire family.
In Webber's often poetic version, an Us and Them situation has arisen over foreign settlers in the kingdom, with Eteocles believing they should be resettled and Polynixes defending their right to stay in the kingdom. When he takes the throne, Creon becomes a two-faced politician, cleverly trying to demonize Polynixes and manipulate the populace.
The playwright's stylistic innovation is to have the actors move silently onstage, their faces expressionless most of the time; their lines, full of feeling, are heard as voice-overs. The exceptions are the two professional mourners (Lindsey Clark and Sky Gilbert), who lip-synch their lines as they "audition" with ritual gestures and masks for Eteocles' funeral ceremony.
The only figure who actually speaks at the play's start is Polynixes (Sean Dixon), and we realize later that it's the dead who have the power of speech; ironically, the departed have an immediacy and vivacity that the living lack.
But don't think that the others are emotionless puppets. Under director Jacob Zimmer, the confrontations between Antigone (Maev Beaty) and Creon (Philip Shepherd) are excitingly theatrical. Her fiancé, Haemon (Frank Cox-O'Connell) and her sister, the practical Ismene (Liz Peterson), also have powerful scenes, and Antonio Cayonne brings a strong sense of menace to the Guard, along with a secret he holds until near the play's end.
Trevor Schwellnus's scenography and video include the use of live cameras to show the action from various perspectives and yet another clever take on the original story.
At times the video screens around the stage broadcast the standard image from CP24, complete with the current Toronto weather; the "news" tape in the upper left of the screen, though, shows Stratford's 1958 version of Oedipus Rex, the actors in traditional costumes and masks.
Can't wait to see the full production, scheduled for next spring.
The Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC) celebrated its 40th anniversary with its first inaugural awards ceremony on Monday, October 22, at Stage West Theatre.
Wittily hosted by Damien Atkins, the evening was the occasion to present seven awards.
Young playwright Bilal Baig opened the evening, reading from his play Norm with mentor Edward Roy; Baig's script was honoured as the winner of this year's mentorship program, sponsored by PGC and the Sears Ontario Drama Festival.
Other up-and-coming writers received PGC's Post-Secondary Award; the winner was Leah Jane Esau for her play Disappeared, while the runner-up was Maureen Gualtieri for The Green Man. Both women are National Theatre School grads.
Don Hannah picked up the Carol Bolt Award for his script The Cave Painter, which will be published by Playwrights Canada Press next year, while the prolific Norm Foster, with over 40 scripts to his credit - 150 productions of his plays are staged annually - received the PGC Lifetime Membership Award.
Two new awards were announced during the evening, both sponsored by Stage West. The New Musical Award went to Lorne Elliott for Jamie Rowsell Lives; Michael Grant got the New Comedy Award for Shorthanded.
The Stage West prizes are generous; the winners receive $5,000 each, and the theatre has committed to presenting the awards for five years.
Theatre Ontario also took part in the evening, presenting its 2012 Maggie Bassett Award to playwright Dave Carley for his long-time service to the playwriting and theatre communities; his association with PGC goes back several decades.
At the end of the evening, PGC executive director Robin Sokoloski revealed that the annual awards would be christened the Tom Hendry Awards, named for the man who's pioneered and championed Canadian plays and theatre for the past five decades.
You can't keep a good ghoul down.
Just in time for Halloween, Eldritch Theatre returns with Doc Wuthergloom's Haunted Medicine Show, featuring creator Eric Woolfe and a panoply of cadaverous puppets.
Dora-nominated last year for outstanding new play and performance, the evening of magic, music and spooky storytelling stars Woolfe as a cursed 142-year-old travelling exorcist.
You can also choose to be part of a select audience for The Dime Museum Of The Damned, an added attraction for the stout of heart.
The show's at a secret location, revealed when you book tickets at eldritchtheatre.ca.
Shoot first, ask later
A young man prepares to launch a Columbine-style shooting in his school.
That's the scary scenario of Swedish playwright Lars Norén's The 20th Of November, not just because of the 1999 Columbine murders but also the later massacre by Norway's Anders Breivik.
The work gets its English-language premiere in a workshop production by CR4B/Rand Ink Co-op, a collaboration between translator/performer Gord Rand and director/designer Steve McCarthy.
Norén, highly regarded in his home country, based his play on the online journals of Sebastian Bosse, a German teen who fired on teachers and fellow students at his Westphalian high school. When he wrote it in 2007, Norén casually remarked that nothing like this had happened in Scandinavia but would sooner or later. In 2011, Breivik made his conjecture a reality.
An exploration of alienation and the mental state that can lead to such horrifying actions, The 20th Of November plays for four nights at a site-specific location at Dundas and Spadina.
Expect an explosive evening, one sure to fuel discussion.