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October 24, 2002 JMSB students compete om 2003 Commerce and Business Games



Anna Fuerstenberg

Photo courtesy of Marketing Communications

by Barbara Black

Students in Anna Fuerstenberg’s latest theatre production are getting a bird’s-eye view of the creative process. Myths of the Metropolis is made up of three plays by established playwrights, and the plays have been fine-tuned in workshops attended by the student actors and designers.

The three playwrights commissioned for the project are David Fennario, Harry Standjofski and Fuerstenberg herself.

Fennario is an institution, a lad from Verdun who wrote the enormously entertaining Balconville back in the 1970s and never lost his working-class edge.

Now, still only in early middle age, the playwright and activist has a disorder of the nervous system, and his play for this production, called Skeleton Staff, is set in a hospital emergency room.

Standjofski is Montreal theatre’s Renaissance man — actor in both English and French, director, and playwright. He joined this project at the last moment, and contibuted An Unlucky Man, an elegantly poetic play about music that includes Mount Royal as one of its locales.

Fuerstenberg decided last spring that she would write a piece that included the Montreal métro, and she sent the 16 participating students out to into the city over the summer to do a little research. Her offering is called Midnight in the Metro.

“I was there when the métro opened [in 1967].” Fuerstenberg recalled. “It was all so new and exciting. I even remember the McGarrigle sisters, who were in a group called the Mountain City Four, coming to our high school to sing a song about the métro. It was a hoot.

“I didn’t know then that by 1997, I’d be looking after an elderly mother in a wheelchair to whom the métro is totally useless.”

Fuerstenberg proposed the idea of plays about Montreal to Fennario on the basis of Montreal’s image as a glamorous, and hedonistic city. “I asked him, What does this myth mean to you?, and what is its other, dark side?”

As a veteran playwright who is Quebec’s representative to the Playwrights Guild of Canada, she knows David Fennario well, and has a great rapport with him. She said he has been coming in adapted transport to the rehearsals with his wife, who is a nurse.

The workshopping process was naturally exciting for the young actors, designers and technicians, and director-playwright Fuer-stenberg is making some discoveries of her own.

Told by her stage manager that a student who wasn’t strictly speaking in the theatre program wanted to add his music to the production, she agreed to see him. He turned out to be Jori Berger, “one of the best theatrical composers around. He doesn’t really need university.”

Fuerstenberg has a rich and varied background herself. As a theatre student at Concordia, she was a protégé of the great Norma Springford, and produced an early multimedia production of Michael McClure’s The Feast in 1978 at Concordia’s D.B. Clarke Theatre.

“We were busted,” Fuerstenberg said, “because another McClure play with sex in it had been closed down in New York, and Montreal didn’t want to be left behind.” There was no sex in , but Montreal’s finest saw some cutting-edge theatrics.

Fuerstenberg went on to do degrees in linguistics and pedagogy, including an MA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and started her PhD in rhetoric at Berkeley.

She gave up work at McGill in translation and metalinguistics to take on this Concordia production, but it’s typical of a life that has always alternated between university and the theatre.
“I wasn’t supposed to go to university,” she said. “I was born in a refugee camp in Germany after the war. University, for me, is a wonderful place to go and lick your wounds, a place of replenishment.

“I know it’s supposed have turned into a factory for the industrial machine, but it was never that way for me.”

Myths of the Metropolis: Montreal will open in the Cazalet Theatre on the Loyola Campus on March 6, and continue until March 16. Adults, $10, students $5. For reservations, please call the box office, at 848-4742.