“Or Be Eaten” on a Sunday morning

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This is what it looks like when three people wearing rat/goblin puppets rehearse book-in-hand at a hellaciously early hour on a Sunday. I took these earlier today; left to right, it’s Graeme Black Robinson, Scott T. Garland, & Amy Marie Wallace, the cast of Silent Protagonist’s Or Be Eaten. I’m directing the thing for the Fringe this summer – we’re in St. Vlad’s theatre, which is a thoroughly sucky & disappointing venue (though it has better air-conditioning than the Factory, which makes up for a lot).

Or Be Eaten‘s a sort of urban-fairy tale, told with puppets & half-masks. I’m also incorporating a lot of le Coq-ish physical work into the piece. Basically it’s about a homeless youth named Ash who goes on a Neil Gaiman-esque odyssey into the bowels of the Torontonian subway system, on a quest to find some Edenic west-side neighborhood where “rent is affordable even after utilities, getting a job is easy, even without a reference.”

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Graeme (Silent Protagonist’s AD) apparently has a production blog going, I’ll link to it when it’s live. Rehearsals for Or Be Eaten have a very different vibe than the rehearsals for my other show, The Hystericon (fewer tears, for one). It’s both refreshing & exciting to be able to work simultaneously on two pieces that differ so significantly in both tone & style. Amy’s got a bunch of gorgeous concept art that I might post, & Graeme’s puppets are consistently spectacular – more on that to come. In the meantime, enjoy the view.

And please please please please please please please read this.

 

 

Rehearsing “The Hystericon”

My stage manager Nadia took this photo today:

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She claims she was looking for inspiration for poster design &c., but in truth I think there’s a bit of the voyeur in her (she’s also a filmmaker, I think it comes with the territory). We’ve got an extremely rough & underdeveloped “blocking” to the piece (i.e., the actors know where they’re standing on stage), but now we move into a much more detailed kind of physical work. My stuff tends to be highly choreographed & stylized; I’m a bit of a Robert Wilsonian, I guess, a Meyerholdian, maybe. The trick will be to see whether an avant-garde aesthetic can be used tell what is essentiall a very human & honest & I hope capital T-True story. The Hystericon is a tricky beast.

But the actors – Renée Haché, Nicholas Porteous, Lesley Robertson, & Nicole Wilson – are all really taking to the work & the piece is already feeling “alive.” The key to success is to always surround yourself with people more talented than you are.

Also had the first read-through of Or Be Eaten…, the second (gulp) show I’m directing for the Fringe this year, produced by Silent Protagonist. It’s got a different vibe entirely; a puppet show, for one thing, urban fairy tale, a lot of fun. Graeme Black Robinson wrote the story & is also designing & building all the puppets – they already look gorgeous.

Moving into the new place at the end of the week. At some point I’ll manage to calm my pulse.

Stick in it the fridge, kiddos.

 

This is the Hystericon!

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I am thrilled to officially announce my latest project – The Hystericon, debuting this summer in the Toronto Fringe Festival. We have just begun rehearsals with my theatre company, Good Old Neon.

In late 19th century Paris, Augustine, Blanche, & Geneviève are the most famous patients of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière insane asylum for women. They are his personal lab rats & performance artists, models & test subjects, as he conducts his experiments in “hysteria,” that dark recess of psychiatric medicine. Through the nascent technologies of photography & the black arts of hypnotism & psychopharmacology, Charcot turns them from troubled women into Hysterics, celebrities of the Belle Epoque: Augustine the Photogenic, whose pictures adorn Charcot’s publications; Blanche, “The Queen of Hysterics,” star performer in his public lectures; & Geneviève la Pucelle, who talks to God & believes she is possessed by demons – tonight they perform for their audience an hysterical revue, a cabaret, en Comédie en vaudeville, demonstrating the history & pathology of hysteria – but something seems to be going wrong. As lines are dropped & cues missed, the show starts to crumble, & the odyssey takes turn for the strange…

The Hystericon was inspired by the true life-stories of Augustine, Blanche, & Geneviève, & by the hundreds of black-&-white photographs taken of them by Dr. Charcot & his associates, found in the infamous Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière, the asylum’s annual photo album. Long a subject of fascination for art critics, historians, psychologists, feminists, & the darkly curious, now the first time a stage play is devoted not to the doctors & their experiments, but to the women themselves; their hopes, desires, loves, & fears.

Check out the Good Old Neon production blog at www.goodoldneon.ca! & follow us on Twitter @goodoldneonTO.