Pride and Prejudice
“excellently produced and extremely engaging.”
-Rachel Benner’s Daily Emerald REVIEW
“not your grandmother’s Jane Austen.”
-Anna Grace’s Eugene Weekly REVIEW
“Actors can take ‘Pride’ in lively play”
-Dorothy Velasco’s Register Guard REVIEW
Love & Information
Directed by John Schmor
Caryl Churchill has long been one of my favorite living playwrights. Her plays are constantly experimental in terms both of theatrical form and poetic economy of language – she engages difficult issues without resorting to easy answers. Churchill often unapologetically centers her work in the riddles of human experience, carefully avoiding “instruction,” telling you or me what to believe, what things “mean,” For some this may be frustrating, as we more easily rely on the comforts and blinders of tidy narrative and obvious argument. As with many of her recent plays in love and information, the form is also content – the whirl of fragmentary moments, “breaths,” as one of our actors put it, represents not only the confusion and longing of our gluttony for information in this “digital age,” but also the ways in which what we want to know and also what we don’t want to know thread through the mystery of how we choose to love. I think Churchill prefers the theatre to reflect the magical (sometimes comical, sometimes terrible) battlements of living. In this play, love comes in “breaths” of shared bafflement and shared learning, or needing to remember and trying to forget, of not knowing and knowing too well, of the dream and the delusion, of place and displacement.
Sila: An Arctic Tale
By Chantal Bilodeau
Directed by Theresa May
Sila asks us to think about the impact of climate change and how we will respond to the changes that human activities have brought to the earth, its communities and its systems. Certainly this is one of the central questions of our time. Climate change directly imperils cultural traditions, livelihoods, and the stability of families and sustenance in diverse communities around the world. I believe that the arts have a significant role to play in deepening our understanding of these personal and cultural impacts of climate change. The theatre is, after all, a place where we both imagine and experience connection and community. I hope that the work of the cast and crew of Sila inspires compassion, empathy and an appreciation for how cultural differences and traditional knowledge are important aspects of a just and ecologically sustainable world.
I first heard Sila as a staged reading at the Earth Matters on Stage Ecodrama Festival in 2012, where it won First Place. I was immediately moved the play’s brave attempt to explore the intersection of the emotional, cultural, and ecological impacts of climate change. I was intrigued by Bilodeau’s use of multiple languages in the play (English, French and Inuktitut) as well as multiple modes of storytelling as a way to demonstrate the crucial importance of traditional knowledge based on lived experience to the contemporary conversation about climate change and climate justice. I was also struck by the way the play breaks language open, inviting us to consider as a possibility “a time when humans and animal shared the same tongue and traded skins with ease.” This invitation to imagine the lived experience of both polar bear and human communities presented an immense theatrical challenge to the cast and crew of Sila. We knew that we were working against, or in spite of, the mythos and Disney images about polar bears that saturate contemporary mainstream culture. How could we avoid one more reiteration of the polar bear as a poster-child of global warming? How could we “make a bear” that tries to climb out of those expectations? Peoples of the Arctic have shared sustenance and habitat with this creature since time immemorial. We took our inspiration from contemporary Inuit artists whose work in stone expresses the interconnected kinship, the permeable worlds of bear and human. Our polar bear is a village, body of knowledge, a constellation of memory, and an expression of survivance.
Rehearsals for this production have been a rich experience of knowledge-sharing. Our cast includes Native/Alaska Native students and community, who generously shared about Arctic cultures and places. In addition to theatre arts, Sila’s cast includes students from environmental studies, music, comparative literature, linguistics, and law—all of whom added to our collective knowledge. I am grateful to each of them.
Comedy of Errors
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Joseph Gilg
This is my first foray into Shakespeare as a director, and it has been a challenging and exciting journey. We selected this play for our season over a year ago and I have been fretting about it ever since. For theatre people, there is a mystique about “the Bard” that is quite intimidating. There is, of course, the matter of the writing, which is considered to be some of the best in the English language. And then, of course, there is the history of production over the past 400+ years, and the academic treatment of the scripts. On top of that I have been asking young adults of the 21st century to master the language of Elizabethan England (that first Elizabeth) and the complexity of plot and character that Shakespeare is famous for in a matter of eight weeks.
Luckily this is not one of Shakespeare’s more complex plays—not even close. It is a fun romp of mistaken identities with little at stake (with the exception of Egeon). The biggest challenge was acknowledging the differing sensibilities of Shakespeare’s time with our own, and planning a production approach that would honor the writing while being relevant and acceptable to today’s audience. My answer was to create an entirely fictitious world that exits at no particular place and at no particular time. It is a reality unto itself. In this I have had exceptional help and collaboration from a very talented group of designers, production assistants, and a cast willing to try anything and very creative in solving problems we ran into in rehearsals. The result is a zany, mixed-up world in which nearly anything is possible, where the bizarre and the strange often take precedence over the familiar and the rational.