by Barbara Black
Students in Anna Fuerstenbergs latest theatre production are getting
a birds-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
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 theatres 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 didnt know then that by 1997, Id be looking after
an elderly mother in a wheelchair to whom the métro is totally
Fuerstenberg proposed the idea of plays about Montreal to Fennario on
the basis of Montreals image as a glamorous, and hedonistic city.
I asked him, What does this myth mean to you?, and what is its other,
As a veteran playwright who is Quebecs 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 wasnt 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 doesnt 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 McClures
The Feast in 1978 at Concordias 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 didnt
want to be left behind. There was no sex in , but Montreals
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 its typical of a life that has
always alternated between university and the theatre.
I wasnt 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 its 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.